errata

Off-Desire

What is off-desire? Is it like off-white?

What is it to have lost that thing that one was never sure one had? To ask this question is to begin to trace a history of desire.

It is to ask what it means to desire and to lose it, or to lose some aspect of it, which might well be to question ontology. One’s life as a sequence of punctuation marks, and I have always been fond of the implied question we term a comma.

To the question asked of desire: what do you want? So often the answer is “I don’t know.” What is it not to know what one wants? Not the bashfulness of evasion, but the sincere not-knowingness that so often shapes our lives and interactions.

On the way to an orgasm and not knowing whether one still wants to get there: the sexual encounter whose most delicious pleasure lies in anticipation, the realization, 2 minutes into a 15 minute encounter, that one is bored, and that one races to orgasm because of boredom, to get the encounter over, to change location, get rid of a trick. These unfleshed micro-narratives that struggle to coalesce into a theory, or story, or sexual biography.

I think increasingly about pornography and what it has enabled: a profusion of desires, a mode of experimenting, daring to see where one might tread, in fantasy. Yet the compulsion to watch pornography, to tread where one might not have previously, is so often instrumentalized. One gets off and shuts down.

The desire “to get” competing with the desire “to get off” with someone particular, or a type. And how type is defined in one way or another: to desire married men, or men in bookstores, or men in public parks, or men in bathhouses, or men in relationships with other men, even men in uniforms.

A long-ago conversation with a young woman, who, mad at her football-playing boyfriend, proclaimed him ugly, very ugly, and when he wanted her back, proclaimed him hot. Hot is not the same thing as beautiful or handsome, but it is honest. (This post was going to be about hotness, but I got sidetracked by shiny things.)

To term desire a history of phantom losses is basic—any Lacanian will laugh at such a simple description. I am not engaged with psychoanalysis here, but with the idea of transcription. How does one narrate and transcribe that history of ongoing loss that becomes renewed as history, written as history, with every moment of desire, even off-desire?

This might be to ask why the much-anticipated trick turns into boring sex, no matter how desirable the trick promised to be. To ask, that is, about the pleasures of anticipation, and the promise of frigidity.

Coda: A set of related terms: desire, anticipation, disappointment, frigidity, impotence.