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NUM-INOUS COMICS PT. 2

This essay is a very belated response to a " part 1 " published in February 2015. The gist of that essay was a response to a corre...

Friday, February 13, 2015

CROSSING THE LAWLINES PT. 5

I'll probably wind up my essays on clansgression for the time being with this entry. There are a number of other subtle ramifications of the theory, but by next week I plan to work on some new angles regarding the NUM theory and the concept of freedom.

In THE CLANSGRESSION FORMULATION I mentioned in passing that violence as much as sex could function, under the proper circumstances, to provide the reader with "the sense of being "caught up" in the experience of having boundaries broken in an explosive, irresistible state of being." Yet I have not explored the element of violence in respect to clansgression, for all of my examples have primarily focused on clansgressive sexual interactions: OEDIPUS, FANTASTIC FOUR, THE MOONSTONE, and GONE WITH THE WIND.  Given that my essay LEAD US INTO TRANSGRESSION details the ways in which the two kinetic elements can either remain separate or become melded into "impure states," the element of violence requires some exploration.

Now, as Bataille has observed, violence is essentially any activity that disrupts the workaday world, and for that reason he viewed sexuality as an aspect of violence, with which statement I do not agree. One of the most significant differences is that violence is not surrounded with nearly as many arbitrary codes as sex is, though there are some. In Part 4 I wrote:

The principle of transgression, however, stems from both the diegetic world of the narrative's characters, as created by the author, and the extra-diegetic world of the audience.
Where violence is coded into a very simple form of transgression-- Criminal A threatens Victim B with violence but is thrashed by Hero C-- there's not a lot of distinction between what the characters think about a fictive act of violence and what the audience thinks about it.  But in the "impure states," violence does become almost as complicated a matter as sex.

The two impure states as defined in the TRANSGRESSION essay were "erotic violence" and "violent sex." Although these are frequently confused, they can be best distinguished by close reading of the motive imputed to the one who commits the violence, to wit: is the agent of violence more concerned with injuring or with screwing?

Of the examples used thus far, only one of the four utilizes either of the impure states, and this is GONE WITH THE WIND. In PART 2 of my essay-series THE ONLY GOOD RAPE IS A FAKE-RAPE, I observed that Scarlett O'Hara's deeds earned her opprobrium from both various characters in the novel and from at least some readers:

Scarlett commits many sins for which readers will want to see her punished, as do her detractors within the novel-- but for many readers this will be her worst sin: failing to love the man devoted to her, and forbidding him from her bed simply because she does not want more children. 

It seems obvious to me that generations of female readers did not take Mitchell's novel to their bosoms because they thought that it advocated spousal rape, or rape of any kind, as a general policy, though some modern ideologues have expressed such opinions. The only way that these female readers can possibly forgive Rhett's action-- or even take vicarious pleasure in it-- is if they are convinced that Rhett's motivation is honest passion, not violence. Violence certainly does shade into the rape-scene: Rhett is clearly trying to humble her, but not to cause her injury as such, even though prior to the rape he openly fantasizes about crushing her skull like an eggshell. And as I noted, Mitchell herself is implicated in the fantasy of rape, or else it would be impossible for her to portray Scarlett in post-coital bliss-- a bliss that implicitly goes beyond whatever functional, baby-making sex the couple has had before.

For a contrasting representation of "erotic violence," where the intent to injure is paramount, I turn to the novel that I cited here as an ideal example of the "bizarre crimes" trope: the Marquis de Sade's JULIETTE. Sade's violence, of course, is always aimed at inspiring erotic satisfaction through violence, but one particular scene relates, unlike the Mitchell scene, to both transgression and clansgression. Juliette, an orphan raised in a convent, escapes the world of righteous morality and becomes a happy convert to the philosophy of torment expounded by a male mentor. There follow many somewhat rote descriptions of Juliette and her fellow sadists getting off on pain and death, but only one strikes me as noteworthy. Late in the novel, orphan Juliette meets M. Bernal, her birth-father. She determines to transgress against all laws of parental respect by killing him, but first she seduces him. Then, having shown that Bernal is a massive hypocrite by society's lights, she binds him, verbally torments him, and then shoots her father through the head. To his credit as the father of a Sadean woman, M. Bernal doesn't beg for his life before he dies.  Although sex certainly figures into this episode, clearly Juliette's intent is always to injure, not to screw.


These two examples are reasonably clear-cut, but others can be confused by the question, "Is violence being used in place of sex?" In SHOOTING THE SHIRT I pointed out how often Japanese comedy-manga made use of the trope in which irate females clobbered the guys they secretly liked when said guys stepped over, or appeared to step over, some lawline. I observed:

the beating may be deemed a symbolic displacement for the sex-act, since the female is almost always hot for the male.

Often these comic versions of Juliette don't admit that violence stokes their engines. Rumiko Takahashi makes frequent use of this trope throughout URUSEI YATSURA, RANMA 1/2, and INU-YASHA, but as far as I can tell through translations, the female protagonists never express any reaction beyond feminine pissed-offed-ness-- an oddly demure reticence from an author who includes so much sex and violence in her work. Takahashi only touched such overt Sadean territory once to my knowledge, in a comic short story about a modern married couple who displayed a peculiar fetish for having violent fights in their home-- but though comic sexual stimulation is suggested, the principal emphasis is on the neighbors giving the couple hell for their disruptive ways.

Ken Akamatsu's LOVE HINA, though, seems to be one of the few works that eventually admits to the sexual nature of the trope, if one can trust the Tokyopop translation. In the last volume, after innumerable incidents in which Keitaro intrudes upon Naru and gets beaten on for it, the two protagonists confess their true feelings to an interlocutor. Keitaro doesn't precisely say that he gets off on masochistic treatment, but he claims that he loves peeping on Naru so much that he doesn't care that he gets beaten for it, while Naru explicitly admits that she loves both his attentions and getting to beat on him for crossing the lines.



If, as I tend to believe, Akamatsu's sado-masochistic representations explain much about the popularity of this trope, then into which "impure state" do they fall? Since intent to injure is the predominant factor, they belong principally to the domain of "erotic violence." However, unlike Juliette's unlucky papa, these victims of female violence always survive their ordeals, so they may eventually have actual sex-- although, like Akamatsu's Keitaro, even "getting the girl" in the end may turn into "getting it in the end," so to speak.

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