Queer Theory, Cultural Studies, Gender Studies, Philosophy, Literature
Paradoxical Pleasures and the Desire to Have it All: Toward a Queer Dialectics
Sadomasochistic desire and experience are thoroughly characterised by paradox: they deploy multistable figures that can be interpreted from either of the two possible outcomes and draw their erotic appeal from this very ambiguity. These sadomasochistic figures are best understood in their complex entirety, comprised as much of contradictory affective and sexual investments as they are of contrasting perspectives. My proposed book project links earlier fieldwork and discourse analysis of contemporary BDSM scenes to the philosophical and political question of dialectics, suggesting that the study of BDSM can contribute to a new and queerer understanding of dialectics. Unlike in many other discourses that rely on dialectics, in BDSM, the tension between contradictions is not resolved at a higher stage of consciousness—or the thrill is lost. Therefore, BDSM pushes us to conceive of another kind of complementarity that differs from the kind of “synthesis” offered by classical dialectics. This project proposes interpreting BDSM practice as a way to reenact and renegotiate the dialectics of our present neoliberal times.