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Deleuze and Guattari got the female orgasm wrong

How I still find philosophy sexy despite their ignorance

20 02 14.victoria licensed FINAL

The urge to philosophise and strive to understand the deeper truths of ourselves, the world and the universe is as powerful as the urge to have sex. Yet my sexual enjoyment of philosophy was stymied when I realised how irrelevant female sexuality was to two of the greatest philosophers on sex: Deleuze and Guattari.

When I first read Deleuze and Guattari’s A Thousand Plateaus, I wept at its beauty and laughed at its madness. I revelled in the revelations and became aroused at the possibilities it gave me. I learnt that my body had become two: one body that was organised, oppressed and repressed, as well as another body, without organs. This body is capable of being more than one sex, and to have more than one desire: “an open zone of possibility: desiring-machines or the nonhuman sex: not one or even two sexes, but n sexes.” This was a ‘microscopic transsexuality’ that I could access, through the power of my own desire. According to the philosophy I was reading, I could take on another sexual identity, one that subverts the status quo. Orgasm is when desire becomes ‘organised’ or judged, and turned into sexual identity.Deleuze and Guattari’s sexual liberation depends upon untying desire from pleasure, meaning that desire can be free and not caught within the libidinal economy by virtue of where/when it is sated. Orgasm is when desire becomes ‘organised’ or judged, and turned into sexual identity.

Orgasm is when desire becomes ‘organised’ or judged, and turned into sexual identity.

These will take the form of gender categories of male/female, and sexual categories such as gay, bisexual and lesbian (of which you must choose only one). Therefore, avoiding orgasm can allow us to resist sexual definition.

However, this theory only makes sense if we agree that the orgasm is an organisational event, a full-stop. But my orgasms happen in ways that Deleuze and Guattari might never have been able to imagine.

My pleasure could happen right in front of them, or anyone, and it would be invisible. I could orgasm repeatedly and still not be sated. Female orgasms are not defining moments of categorization, but an opening up of different possibilities. They are not fully understood by science, or indeed philosophy. They are not understood by men. The folds and unpredictable lubrications, discharges and swellings of the vulva and vagina, that have the power to reshape our understanding of what sex is, can appear at once mysterious and threatening to a system that insists on stability and evidence. This is a pleasure that can be multiple, unlike the categories available for our identity. It is a pleasure that, by its nature, keeps moving forward, even when sated, unlike the orgasm Deleuze and Guattari tried to subvert. Organisation of sexuality clearly needs subversion, but I say this cannot take place by untying pleasure from desire, since it was not my pleasure that was the problem in the first place.

The female orgasm was never the moment at which female sexuality became organised, because my orgasm refuses to be organised.

The female orgasm was never the moment at which female sexuality became organised, because my orgasm refuses to be organised.As such it should not be proclaimed ‘deplorable’ along with the male orgasm, since it is not the basis for the repressive libidinal economy. I argue that we should not be judging the vulva’s pleasure in the same way that we judge a man’s pleasure, and there certainly should not be a penis at the centre of my sexuality, or at the centre of the struggle for my sexuality’s liberation and expression.

Despite realising the dissonance between the sexual experiences of the philosophers I have read, such as Deleuze and Guattari, and my own, I continue to appreciate philosophy as a sexual experience. I find the urge to fuck and the urge to philosophise coincides, both in the sense of occurring at the same time, as well as bearing the same features. Once we become aware of this, we touch something essential to life, something that shows the body thinks as much as the mind, and my desire, my real embodied desire, the wetness of my vulva, is impacted by the philosophies I have read and internalised. It is as though the act of philosophising transcends the specifics of the repressive theories and endless mansplaining philosophers. The act of philosophizing, despite its subject matter, and its contradictions, awakens my body.

The act of philosophizing, despite its subject matter, and its contradictions, awakens my body.

Reading philosophy is a troubling experience, as is a sexual life, particularly as a woman. The more a woman’s sexual life develops, the more philosophy proves itself to be flawed at best, and harmful at worst. Reading philosophy is also a process of discovery, much like sexuality, much like my own orgasms. The two are not only similar in process however, but also in movement. They might even be the same thing, or at least inextricably entwined. Consider the following process: early on, horizons are set: you are told where and when you can come. You meet lovers and/or philosophers that reinforce this, or they might challenge it. If you stick with this lover or a particular way of being with this lover, or philosophy, your horizons may not change. If you move on, or if you alter, so will your horizons. Harm, violence or abuse are possible each time. The extraordinary capacity and power of the female orgasm is to upturn how we think about sexuality, to create and shift horizons, and to create and entirely new philosophies.

If you want to hear from leading thinkers like this debating renowned philosophers, cutting edge scientists, headline-making politicians, and beloved artists, come to HowTheLightGetsIn Hay 2020 for four days of debates and talks alongside music, comedy and parties.

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