Sunday, March 02, 2008

Another article you needn't read ('cos I have done it for you)

Die Zeit has an utterly negligible article on Charlotte Roche, whom most of you probably haven't heard of until now. Here in Germany, though, Charlotte Roche is quite the media darling. Born in Britain not so very long ago, she moved to Germany as a child, which was probably a good thing, too -- who knows, had she stayed in binge country she might have gone the way that all photogenic it-girls with sleek shiny hair seem to go there and ended up spending her days staggering from pub to club in a state of inebriation with her skirt hitched up and her long tresses in tatters (with apologies to Francis S., who is in for another shock).

In a relatively civilised country like ours, she had do something with her life -- such as pretend to be a musician and an artist, work for VIVA (Germany's answer to MTV) and other TV-stations, become a cameo actress on TV and in pop videos, give readings of other peoples' books and mildly obscene doctoral dissertations and pocket not only neat sums of money but also prestigious media awards for her manifold achievements.

Liberal intellectuals loooove Charlotte, finding her sassy, street-wise and subtly feminist. Roche herself claims a certain affinity with old-school feminists like Alice Schwarzer -- Germany's own Germaine Greer -- though she also thinks that feminism has moved on in the past years. To make this point, she takes every opportunity she gets to tell the world that she is into S&M.

Now, this exhibitionist desire has made it into a full-length book with a weighty title: Feuchtgebiete ("Wetlands") .

Oooo -- naughty, naughty. Yes, the book is porn, and apparently so hot that the first publisher decided to drop it like the proverbial potato. In no time at all a new one was found so that Roche could blurt her liberationist message. For pornography, according to Roche, is one way of stepping out of the alleged speechlessness afflicting women when it comes to their sexuality:
Women have no language for their desire .... When it comes to their bodies, women are uptight. Women don't even have sexual fantasies of their own.
So, feminism has moved on, has it? How come it seems to be repeating itself?

I'm seriously tired of having to go through the same kind of subversion-through-pornography rigmarole every ten years or so. Not only have I had enough of hearing about the famous feminine speechlessness (Have you ever shared a train compartment with an all-female bowling-club drenched in prosecco? No bloody speechlessness there, I can tell you), I'm also tired of the truly daft suggestion that pornography of all things should be the means through which women can gab themselves to freedom (NB: Not all speech is good or relevant!).

Now, I'm not suggesting à la MacKinnon, that porn is merely the instrument of patriarchy's plot against women. It's just that I don't believe that "chick porn" can really change matters. If right thinking, feminist pornography hinges on post-structuralism's neo-Kantian claim that we can transcend the physical shackles that tie us down by engaging in kinky fantasies, it is just as silly as ordinary pornography, be it of the common or the artsy style. If it has anything more relevant to say, then it might suggest, with de Sade, that there is no way that we will escape the physical realities of life.

As Angela Carter wrote in 1979 about de Sade's The Hundred and Twenty Days at Sodom:
The Chateau of Silling, the imitation Sodom, is utterly impregnable and the paths that brought the victims there have been destroyed behind them. The victims have been erased from the world and now live, their own ghosts although they are not yet dead, only awaiting death, in a world where the function of their own flesh is to reveal to them the gratuitous inevitablity of pain, to demonstrate the shocking tragedy of mortality itself, that all flesh may be transformed, at any moment, to meat.
In summary, then, de Sade's message is bleak: "The primal condition of man cannot be modified in any way; it is, eat or be eaten." This insight is the price of the libertine's self-assertive debauchery, which rests on the assumption that others are, and can at all times be reduced to, mere meat.

This is a dire insight indeed -- though I don't think (I don't hope!) that this is what pleasure-seeking Ms Roche had in the damp nether regions of her mind. Let's hope her pornography is of the silly variety -- and not bother to buy the book!


Jura Watchmaker said...

I think I'm going to barf.

J. Carter Wood said...

That was, sorry to say, our reaction too....

Pecos Blue said...

But have you read it? I am looking for a copy in english. I am not saying that it isn't all you are saying but across the pond here I am curious at what it has stirred up.