A previous post mentioned how we now live in a world where possibilities trump realities, and endless possibility becomes the secular equivalent of immortality. To put it in more medieval Thomist parlance, we now live in a world where potency trumps act, thereby inverting the medieval emphasis on actuality as the realisation of potency. In a culture of infinite possibility, realisation of possibilities is tantamount to death.
In a world carried by such a metaphysics, one victim of this is the actuality of the human body. In a world where endless possibility is a form of immortality, the actuality of the human body is now made to carry that immortality by being itself made to become an infinitely malleable entity. This is a point that was made in Herve Juvin’s The Coming of the Body, where the body, augmented by medical science and the internet, is now made to become the bearer of endless possibilities with regard to age, sex, capability and appearances.
What Juvin also noted, however, is that as human flesh is made to assume such infinite possibilites, the facticity of the body itself becomes a horrible thing to behold. In the process, actual flesh becomes not a living but a deadening of possibility, thereby making virtual bodies preferable to actual flesh. To use Juvin’s words, we are now living in a culture gripped by a “horror of the flesh”.
This preference for a virtual body over actual bodies becomes particularly apparent in the world of pornography. What is becoming increasingly apparent is that, as providers of pornography become more prevalent and more competitive for the consumer dollar, what becomes touted is not so much sex. Rather, the commodity being sold is the infinite arrays of possible sexual activity.
In the process, actual sex becomes trumped by the possibilities made available by pornography. The evidence of this can be found in testimonies in anti-porn sites such as Fight the New Drug, where actual sex and actual bodies become superceded by possibilities made available on screen, and actual sex is made to die the death that so many other actualities would suffer under the lordship of infinite potency.
We see in such testimonies a cultural outplaying of what Catherine Pickstock calls in her After Writing the “necrophilic” logic of infinite life dressed as infinite possibility.