On Frottage

It shall be a returning: one goes from self to self. An accidental rub that is not familiarity.
And a blush.

To begin, a moment of pedagogy: am I most myself when I masturbate? To this question, my students remain silent, not shocked, a little bemused, perhaps. Inching toward the blush. Even to say the word conjures injunctions we thought gone.

Masturbation suspends time. It is the site of a continual return: one might call it compulsive. Compulsion—the wedding of desire and coercion—the ambivalence of, shall we say, agency.

The preface to my dissertation will not contain a meditation on juxtaposition and frottage, though both might best describe what I tentatively term “method.” If one describes a certain “accident,” the book that one picks up because of proximity to another, happy happenstance, another describes the shameful stimulation that sustains inquiry: the blush with which I admit my project is trying to explain why I enjoy tricking. (A discerning reader will note the deferral that masquerades as confession, even now, and here.)

Frottage so often depends on another. Perhaps a metonym for a different kind of social, apart from the clichés that now pass as conversation. One wants to claim familiarity has replaced wit. This formulation only works within a theory of degeneration. In truth, conversation remains deeply embedded within the first grunts we understood as music and speech. Such grunts have their place as grunts. It is, rather, the noise of the familiar that distresses.

(Ahh, the wise reader points out, isn’t noise most akin to frottage, more so than, say, witty conversation, that ritual of formality. Indeed, wise reader. Indeed.)

Hence frottage as accident.

Also, the sensation of turning pages as frottage. We have yet to understand, if we can, how those first accidental and tentative rubs became central to existence. “The ego is, first and foremost, a bodily ego,” Freud tells us. And I misquote. It might be explained by that wonderful idiomatic phrase: rubbing along together. Or, rubbing along well.

(A student tells me the book I have assigned is “irritating.” My writing is described as “irritating.” These moments of rubbing that constitute the social.)