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Excoriate Yourself

August 15, 1999: Densely were the belongings contained within Pauline’s cramped room. The shelves were stacked with the writings of such authors as Dworkin, Genet, and Freud, alongside her cassettes of various exploitation and avant-garde movies, in turn beside her cassettes of rock ‘n roll favorites plus the oldies. Beneath her bed—a loft—was her desk, upon which her computer was currently turned off.

Instead of engaging with any of that though, she was lying on her mattress in her underwear, not doing much of anything. Her sparse clothing was not for erotic purposes, but instead because she couldn’t care to do herself up pretty for today. Were she to do that, she’d have a cute blouse on coupled with a pencil skirt, knee-high white socks, and Mary-Janes. And don’t forget the azure eye-shadow, the pointed eye-liner, or the carmine-shaded lipstick. She definitely could care about her appearance. But really, she had no pretensions on this day of all days of having any boys to impress at school, not that she ever really did on much of any day, even though she was “supposed to” have had at least one by this point.

There wasn’t a point though in getting dressed up to go out much of anywhere on this Sunday anyhow; to be outside for any substantial period of time in these dog days meant to swelter. Besides, Pauline never went to church, let alone on vacations; they were noise distracting from her state of anarchy in which she absorbed herself: her hyperreality.

Speaking of, it was probably a good time to open that package on her desk she had ordered off the internet the week prior, instead of just resting in bed. Those on-line catalogs tended to list some rather lurid films—this one surely being no exception.

The In the Realm of the Senses video-tape was revealed inside the packaging after Pauline opened it with a jack-knife. She was able to garner from her cursory reading before she had ordered it that it was some notorious art-house sex film of Japan, directed by someone, as listed on the box cover, by the name of Nagisa Oshima. The name Nagisa, she knew, could be a man’s name or a woman’s. Hopefully a woman directed this film, that being the case; erotica is a world dictated for the sexual power fantasies of a bunch of male chauvinist pigs.

She figured anyhow that since the awaited tape was now in her possession, she might as well pop it in the VCR and see what came out. Although it certainly would have offended the sensibilities of the parents of a seventeen-year-old girl especially such as herself, she had ensured a level of clandestinity in her acquisition of the tape in order to prevent such a turmoil.

The motion picture’s story, she then learned, set in imperial Japan, featured as its protagonist a former sex worker—her name Sada Abe—who now worked at an inn. As the owner, Kichizo, took an interest in her, she began an affair with him, shown in graphic sexual detail.

Pauline really wasn’t aroused at all by their sexual liaisons, which comprised the majority of the film; in fact, she was rather disturbed by them at points, with her having no intention of using the film for sexual arousal anyway. Most notably, watching Sada squirm, not just in her face, but more relevantly, her genitalia and the flesh surrounding them, as Kichizo inserted an egg inside of her womanhood, felt like second-hand molestation to Pauline. He, in response to Sada thereafter expressing her excruciation, suggested that she should push it out as a hen does.

As Sada took care with her expulsion of the egg as to not excoriate herself, Pauline thought then that this film could not have possibly been directed by a man; surely, it must have been directed by a woman. Her reasoning was as follows: Although it showed sex as something that was inflicted upon Sada, she in turn inflicted violence upon the inflicter: repeatedly sexually strangling him, not because she lusted for his impositions all along, but instead because this was the language of violence in which she had been instilled for years and years. Sada’s only means of retorting culminated in her ultimately consummating the fantasies of her abuser in turn, because she saw no way out other than, what was for her at least, a release of both physical violence and sexual ecstasy.

Perhaps, however, she was merely excusing the male power fantasy. She did, after all, recall Andrea Dworkin’s analysis of the Sadeian figures of Justine and Juliette: “The so-called libertine re-creates herself in the image of the cruelest (most powerful) man she can find.” (1)

At the film’s climax, this was epitomized as Sada severed off Kichizo’s manhood with a knife (as she had threatened to do previously in the film). The strikingly-colored blood engulfed his crotch as his penis was sliced away. And then there was his scrotum, in her hands. In blood across his torso, the words read: “Sada and Kichi: together forever.” A narration began over the shot of her lying beside his body, stating that until she was arrested, she carried his genitalia around with her to various Tokyo inns. After she was captured and the matter was publicized, the narrator continued, the emasculation became the zenith of a cause celebre across Japan.

At this point, now that the credits were rolling, Pauline could not help but recall from “The SCUM Manifesto” its words on emasculation. She vividly recalled a phrase about the act, although in what context it was written she had forgotten.

But she couldn’t leave it at just her fleeting recollection; she had to see again what Solanas wrote. So there it was, from Pauline’s shelf:

When the male accepts his passivity, defines himself as a woman (males as well as females think men are women and women are men), and becomes a transvestite he loses his desire to screw (or to do anything else, for that matter; he fulfills himself as a drag queen) and gets his dick chopped off. He then achieves a continuous diffuse sexual feeling from ‘being a woman.’

Pauline realized—as had become routine for her—that she could not distract herself any longer for the day from her present existence by this “edification”: her wallowing in her own shit after watching a sex film this time, also fashioned into something high-brow. Even so, she couldn’t shake the feeling in this moment of recognizing herself as somewhat like Sada, although Pauline was in sexual pain rather than sexual glee. As if to cosmically reinforce this, her father’s booming voice hollered out to her from the downstairs:

“Arnold!”


(1) A quotation from the 95th page of her book Pornography: Men Possessing Women, as published in 1989 by Plume.

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