I used to be in a Christian youth group when I was in high school. The youth pastor preached against premarital sex using a demonstration: a guy was represented by a blue piece of paper, and a girl by a pink piece of paper. The pastor, standing in a dark room in front of an audience of high schoolers, glued the papers together, called it sex, and tried to tear them apart. And, when he tore them apart, some of the blue paper stuck to the pink one, and blotches of pink stuck to the blue one. This is sex, according to the pastor! There’s a permanent attachment between two papered souls, mediated by sticky white glue. The youth pastor then took the opportunity to tell us a self-deprecating story about his high school girlfriend, whom he had sex with.
I guess this faded back into my mind, until I read the introduction to Georges Bataille’s Erotism, which is a slightly misogynistic book. Bataille attempts to outline a sort-of secular theology surrounding the erotic (perhaps a type atheistic approach to religious, or mystical, or “inner” experience). And for Bataille, the erotic blends two separate objects, in which each one “dies” and fuses with the other, leading “to eternity,” and leading “through death to continuity.” And in spite of these vague poetic words (let me try to explain them), I could only think of two pieces of paper, fused through an eternal glue.
For Bataille, continuity (which, he says, has a “heady quality” 😏) is similar to a theologian’s concept of God, as an eternal base upon which two separate objects—or people—distinguish themselves. And for the youth pastor’s papers, the glue is what makes two people continuous with each other, where they lose their separateness and become one entwined soul. (In this case, the soul, as something divine, and the continuous probably enact a similar experience). For Bataille, the continuity—the glue—is eternal. For the youth pastor, the retention of the objects affected by the glue is eternal. (And, if we want to merge these ideas together: the glue might only be apparent by what it is stuck to, otherwise it would not be glue, so that the merge, found in both the glue and its objects, is eternal). More clearly: in both cases, each self is dissolved into some eternal continuity with the other.
To which I really only shrug. An eroticism pointing to eternity, or to the dissolution of selves, feels exacerbated to me. Speak of eternity, for example, to the man who led me to the closet of his friend’s house and performed rituals of loving on me, and he might laugh! For his closet may be literarily memorable in its irony, but it does not house an eternal continuity between two men; sex may be relatively unselfconscious and exhilarating, and I may even glance with eyes seeking to ravage in terms of Bataille’s “eternal” violence, but to link this eroticism with a continuity-of-life-in-spite-of-this-death or the soul or eternity would be pretentious and dumb.
Which, really, is just me (a gay man, which probably makes the difference here: the rules must be different for two blue papers) saying to my youth pastor, but mostly Bataille: chill out a bit—eroticism is not such a big deal.