It sounds not only disagreeable but also paradoxical, yet it must nevertheless be said that anyone who is to be really free and happy in love must have surmounted his respect for women and have come to terms with the idea of incest with his mother or sister.-- Sigmund Freud, "On the Universal Tendency to Debasement in the Sphere of Love."
"[The incest taboo in man was the]fundamental step because of which, by which, but above all in which, the transition from nature to culture was accomplished."--Claude Levi-Strauss, ELEMENTARY STRUCTURES OF KINSHIP.
In LEAD US NOW INTO TRANSGRESSION I agreed with George Bataille's theory of transgressive sexuality, in which even "right" sexual relations are essentially transgressive. I do draw my own non-Bataillean distinction about differing types of transgression, though, and will expound on the differences between "cooperative" and "competitive" forms of transgression in a future essay.
Now the two scholars quoted above both privilege one particular form of sexual transgression, that of incest, as being central to mankind's experience in some way. Obviously Freud focuses on individual development and Levi-Strauss emphasizes societal factors, but both are putting "the Big I" right at center-stage.
In HO HUM-- BATMAN'S GAY AGAIN I assailed as wrongheaded any literary or philosophical theory which privileged one particular form of sexuality over any other. An example of this purblind tendency can be found in Eve Sedgwick's EPISTEMOLOGY OF THE CLOSET, where she argues that "any aspect of modern Western culture" is "damaged" if it does not "incorporate a critical analysis of modern homo/heterosexual definition." Freud and Levi-Strauss cannot be accused, as I believe Sedgwick can, of forming a concept of sexuality based purely on their personal sexual tastes, but the tendency all three share, that of making one aspect of human sexuality the centerpiece of their theories, is no less problematic.
George Bataille's EROTISM, though strongly influenced by both Freud and Levi-Strauss, disagreed with them on this score:
"The taboo within us against sexual liberty is general and universal; the particular prohibitions are variable aspects of it... It is ridiculous to isolate a specific 'taboo' such as the one on incest, just one aspect of the general taboo, and look for its explanation outside its universal basis, namely, the amorphous and universal prohibitions bearing on sexuality."-- EROTISM, pp. 50-51.
Later, in the chapter entitled "The Enigma of Incest," Bataille examines Levi-Strauss's ELEMENTARY STRUCTURES in depth. The chapter-essay also includes a few side-comments on Freud, as well as quoting L-S's own commetary on TOTEM AND TABOO, which L-S valued for being "an inveterate fantasy" even though the book described the origins of incest in mythic terms that probably never took place in real time. Bataille shows tremendous respect for L-S's theories, praising (page 212) its "accuracy" in answering questions about "the nature of the taboos on incest in archaic societies." However, on the previous page, he says "it is rather a pity that Levi-Strauss has paid so little attention to the bearing of eroticism" in the exchange of women between one tribe and another.
By "eroticism" Bataille means what he calls the "sensuous frenzy" that potentially disrupts societal homeostasis and yet remains indispensible to the continuance of society through propagation of new societal members. One might think he wants Levi-Strauss to be a little more like Freud, more concerned with human syndromes of compulsion, but I feel that Bataille was a little less concerned than Freud with defending his own concept of societal homeostasis. For Freud, the taboo against aberrant sexuality is one with the Law of the Father, and is not meant to be violated without serious repercussions. Bataille, in this and other sections, emphasizes rather that "the transgression does not deny the taboo but transcends it and completes it." It it because Bataille is aware of man's separateness from other animals that his concept of sexuality is better than that of Freud, Levi-Strauss, or (certainly) Sedgwick, in that Bataille understands that it is in the nature of man that:
"the bounds set on freedom of action give a fresh fillip to the irresistible animal impulse."