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Cultures of Violence

Eunju Hwang

Masochist Violence in Machine Culture: in J. G. Ballards Crash

James Ballard, the narrator of Crash, has a car accident with Dr. Helen Remingtons car and Helens husband is instantly killed at the crash site. James begins to be aware of his real sexual desire aroused by the car crash, and the crash becomes a real experience for him, which lets him know that he is alive; The crash was the only real experience I [James] had been through for years. For the first time I was in physical confrontation with my own body, an inexhaustible encyclopaedia of pains and discharge, with the hostile gaze of other people, and with the fact of the dead man.1 James and Dr. Helen Remington are soon found by Dr. Robert Vaughan who is always searching crashes, broken cars and sectioned bodies, sexualising and anthropomorphising automobiles. Vaughan repetitively tries to die from a car crash with Elizabeth Taylor. James and Helen begin to understand the sexual implication of the combination of leaked liquid from broken cars and fluids from mutilated bodies and begin to explore the newly formed sexuality that streamlined cars and deformed bodies obtained by
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crashes can provide. For Vaughan the death trials with Elizabeth Taylor mean sexual acts and his crash consummates the marriage between himself and the actress. Human beings begin to explore the perverse pleasure such as sado-masochism - especially masochism - after they understand a new type of pleasure that Freud mentions in Beyond the Pleasure Principle; humans begin to discover enjoyable pain; they torture their bodies or other bodies. The protagonists in Crash hardly show sadistic interests; they are only related to masochism though they want to kill others for their own purpose. What they are involved in is their own death and pleasure from the repetitive death trials therefore they are not interested in other peoples suffering. As for the formation of masochism, Deleuze clarifies that the masochists aim is to escape from the consequences of the transgression against the father. The masochist proceeds to identify with the mother and offers himself to the father as a sexual object; however, since this would in turn renew the threat of castration which he is trying to avert, he chooses, being beaten; both as exorcism of being castrated, and as a regressive substitute of being loved. As for the reason that the mother who does the beating and not the father, Deleuze suggests three main reasons: avoidance of the homosexual choice, preservation of the first stage where the mother was the desired object and graft onto it the punishing action of the father, and the need to present the

whole process as a kind of demonstration or plea addressed solely to the father (You see, it is not I who wanted to take your place, it is she who hurts, castrates and beats me.)2 Deleuze divides masochism into two types: perverse masochism and moral masochism. When the subject shifts the blame on the mother (It is not I, it is she who wishes to castrate the father.), the masochist either identifies with the bad mother under the cover of projection and thus takes possession of the fathers penis (perverse masochism); or makes any such identification impossible by maintaining the projection and substituting himself as the victim (moral masochism: It is not the father, it is I who am castrated.)3 Sado-masochism under the control of the superego can be expressed in a safe way, which does not followed by physical violence. Modern humans release their sadism through computer games or heavy metal music of strong languages. Similarly, masochists can be found in sports games, health clubs, and the Guinness book. 4 However, it is noticeable that blood rituals, the gothic culture, the punk or body piercing is prevailed on modern society as a common sado-masochist form. Juliet Flower MacCannell explains that people resolve the castration complex through blood rituals when there is a failure of Oedipus and here, the real blood must flow as a sign of the

mortal danger.5 During the pre-oedipal period, the child believes that it is a part of the mother, therefore, there is no separation and no absence; there is only identity and presence. However, when the child enters the oedipal stage, the father splits up the dyadic unity between mother and child and the father forbids the child further access to the mother and the mothers body.6 In Lacanian term, the primary repression means the loss of the maternal body. When the father intervenes to break up the dyadic unity between mother and child, the child takes up its place in the symbolic order and thus comes to define itself as separate from the other. The symbolic order opens up the unconscious because the primary repression caused by the broken relationship between mother and child creates the desire, and the unconscious is the result of the repression of desire.7 According to MacCannell, initiation rituals are imaginary representations and public demonstration of reparation applied to a failed symbolic castration8, that is to say, sadists replace Father with blood or sacrifice and the missing paternal role makes them fearless of castration. MacCannell says that sadists mock castration by denying it.9 The emancipation from the fear of castration makes the sadist enjoys and stands blood rituals. This can be supported by several examples of sadists perverted behaviour. In December 2003, a 42-year-old computer engineer (from Kassel, Germany), Armin

Meiwes, was arrested for cannibalism10 and he confesses that he carried out the killing of the volunteer, Berlin computer specialist, Bernd Juergen Brandes, whom he found on the Internet in March 2001 and the reason of the cannibalism is for both the killers and the volunteers sexual satisfaction. The first thing Meiwes did after he mutilated Brandess body was frying Brandess penis and suggested that the volunteer share the cooked penis with him11 while the volunteer was still alive. This example literally demonstrates Freuds idea that the connection between cruelty and sexual instinct is a relic of cannibalistic desires.12 Moreover, Craig Marine depicts one scene of Bob Flanagans penile subincision13, which means an alternate form of circumcision that involves splitting the penis end to end.14 Since the sadist replaces the paternal figure with blood or sacrifice, these blood or sacrifice oppresses the sadists desire and the sadist performs more blood rituals in order to overcome the replace father figure. For Freud, masochism remains as mysterious; he fails to give an explicit explanation of masochism. Freud believes that masochism is nothing more than an extension of sadism and a sadist is always at the same time a masochist although he characterises sadism as an active aspect of perversion and masochism the passive form of perversion.15 Freud always bears the dual structure in his mind- such as activity and passivity, masculinity and femininity, love and hatred, affection and hostility, sadism

and masochism, scopophile and exhibitionism and says that every active perversion is accompanied by its passive counterpart.16 However, throughout his book, Masochism, Deleuze strongly denies the unity between sadism and masochism,17 stating that sadism and masochism do not constitute a single unity, but each is complete in itself. 18 Furthermore, Deleuze announces that the masochists experience is grounded in an alliance between the son and the oral mother and the sadists in the alliance of father and daughter making the sadist androgynous and the masochist hermaphrodite. 19 For example, the protagonists in Crash hardly show sadistic interests; they are only related to masochism though they want to kill others for their own purpose. What they are involved in is their own death and pleasure from the repetitive death trials therefore they are not interested in other peoples suffering. Sado-masochism is inseparable from voluntary actions since humans feel contradictory pleasure from pain when they are ready to accept the pain; therefore, pleasure comes from the death drive is the self-drive. Sado-masochists are active in terms of performing in order to pursuit their pleasure and enjoyment. Deleuze says, Seduction means giving ones word, and words for the pervert are strictly logical demonstrations correlated with acts.20 MacCannell cites the statement of Kirby Dick, A large part of masochism is mental training21. In the same context that she gives

another example of a young masochist girl who says I like testing my limit.22 In a positive sense, masochism can be understood as a trial to overcome physical and mental pain and to find the absolute subject: Whos the boss- you or the pain? Come on, show me whos the boss?23 As the relationship between violence and the sexual instinct is examined above, here, what is at stake is to understand how they are associated to the technological, that is to say, the triangle of violence, sex and the technological. In modern days, humans tend to develop violent primitivism using the technological such as cars, aeroplanes (such as Septermber the 11th) and the Internet. Mark Seltzer says that serial killing or mass violence is inseparable from the problem of the body in machine culture. Seltzer demonstrates, in, Serial Killer, how the modern crime is connected to sexuality24 through the case of the Hungarian train wrecker, Sylvestre Matushka who engineered a series of train crashes to fulfil his sexual desire. At his trial, he explains that he could only achieve sexual release with spectacular train crashes.25 Seltzer says that Matushkas planned train crashes eroticise the contact between bodies and technology.26 Seltzer moves the relation between the individual and the mass towards the one between humanity and machinery, mentioning that serial killing.is inseparable from the problem of the body in machine culture: an intimacy with

technology that will be set out in terms of the intersecting logics of seriality, prosthesis, and primary mediation.27 Since the technological is used to practice perversion in the machine culture as we see in the case of Crash, perversion becomes normalised through media, sex toys and the Internet. What Freud demonstrates in the title of his essay, Beyond the Pleasure Principle is no longer beyond the Pleasure Principle, but it begins to be included in the Pleasure Principle in machine culture.
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J. G. Ballard, Crash. (London: Vintage), 1995. p. 39 Deleuze, Masochism, p. 58 3 Giles Deleuze, Masochism: Coldness and Cruelty, (New York: Zone Books), 1999. p. 106 4 These positive activities can be included in sado-masochism, since Freud defines sadism as active algolagnia whose condition is based on the humiliation and maltreatment, and he detects the root of sadism in the normal considering males aggressiveness and satisfaction. On the other hand, Freud regards masochism as a passive attitude whose satisfaction comes from suffering physical or mental pain. Freud, Three Essays on Sexuality, The Essentials of Psycho-Analysis, (London: Penguin Books), 1991. pp. 300-301 5 Juliet Flower MacCannell, Perversion in Public Places, New Formation 35, 1998, p. 51 6 Toril Moi, Sexual/Textual Politics:Feminist Literary Theory, (London: Routledge), 1988. c 1985. p. 99 7 Moi, Ibidem. pp.100-1001 8 MacCannell, Ibidem. p. 51 9 MacCannell, Ibidem. pp. 51-3 10 During Meiwess childhood, he began to form the idea of cannibalism dreaming of eating school friends flesh. He believed that he could be a friend with them for ever by eating their bodies. From The Washington Post, reported by Peter Finn, the 4th of December 2003. 11 However, he was not able to eat it because it was too burnt while Meiwes was seeing his victim who was unconscious as the result of over bleeding. 12 Freud, Three Essays on Sexuality, p. 302 13 A documentary entitled Sick: The Life and Death of Bob Flanagan, Supermasochist by Kirby Dick, 1996. Kirby Dick shows Bob Flanagans masochist art who had an incurable illness, crystic fibrosis, and enjoyed being tortured by his mistress/wife to feel that he is still alive. According to Renata Salecls research, the end of the film also records the artists death and his corpse being photographed by his devoted wife. The most shocking scene includes the act of genital self-mutilation, in which the artist nails his penis onto a wooden board. While he removes the nails, the blood squirts onto the camera. Salecl adds that this scene is hard to watch many of the male observers identify so strongly with the painful ritual that they scream in panic, some even leave the room. From Renata Salecl, Cut in the Boby: From Clitoridectomy

to Body Art in New Formations no. 35, Edited by David Glover, (London: Lawrence and Wishart, Autumn 1998), p. 37 and Juliet Flower MacCannell, Perversion in Public Places, in New Formations no. 35, Ibidem. p.52 14 Craig Marine, You Always Hurt The One You Love, in Sick: The Life and Death of Bob Flanagan, Super Masochist, San Francisco Chronicle, 2 November 1997, pC7. Cited in Juliet Flower MacCannell, Perversion in Public Places, New Formation no. 35. p.52 15 Freud, Three Essays on Sexuality, pp. 302-303 16 Freud, Three Essays on Sexuality, p. 309 17 Deleuze. Where the sadistic man happens to triumph. all masochistic activity ceases; like the Forms in Plato, it withdraws or perishes rather than unite with its opposite, sadism. Masochism. p. 61 18 Deleuze, Masochism. 67 19 Deleuze, Masochism. pp. 67-68 20 Giles Deleuze, Masochism: Coldness and Cruelty, (New York: Zone Books, 1991), cited in MacCannell, Ibidem. p. 48 21 McCannell. Ibidem. p.53 22 MacCannell, Ibidem. pp. 52-3 23 Jay Wiseman, SM 101: A Realistic Introduction, (San Francisco, Greenery Press, 1996), pp. 170-171, Cited in MacCannell, Perversion in Public Places, p.57 24 Mark Seltzer remarks, in Serial Killers, If murder is where bodies and history cross, senseless murder is where our most basic senses of the body and society, identity and desire, violence and intimacy, are secured, or brought to crisis. The emergence of the kind of individual called the serial killer is bound up, it will be seen, with a basic shift in our understanding of the individuality of the individual. And this is bound, in turn, to a general mutation in our understanding of both the criminal and the sexual. Excerpted from Mark Seltzer, Serial Killers, (New York and London: Routledge, 1998), p.2 25 Seltzer. Ibidem. p. 29. 26 Seltzer. Ibidem. P.31 27 Seltzer. Ibidem. p. 33

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