love and liberty


image nan goldin

“In love, it is the liberty of the other that I want to assimilate or to possess as liberty; for it is the liberty of the other that separates the other from me and constitutes me an object revealing my outside to the other. For the other can never love me as an object, and he can love me as a subject only by making himself an object which will be all the world to me and seduce me. The loved one only becomes lover by becoming consumed with the desire to be loved. Thus each is trying to be an object of fascination to the other and to demand that the other exist solely to found, will and sustain him as object. To love is in its essence the project to make oneself loved. It is in principle that this enterprise is doomed, for I cannot be loved as an object, and I cannot be other than an object to another, and the love of the other is essentially the same project to be loved as subject by me. I cannot get to the goal, I can only turn aside to masochism, making myself wholly an object, using my liberty to deprive myself of liberty, or to sadism, compelling the other to become wholly a thing, a body. These aberrations are themselves self-defeating. And they are only isolated and developed moments of normal sexual intercourse, which is the original project for possessing the liberty of the other through his objectivity. For sexual differentiation and sexual acts spring from deeper ontological structures. The desire which attempts to satisfy itself in sexual acts is a desire for a person taken in his life and place and to become with that person nothing other than one’s flesh and blood, pure facticity, contingency. I MAKE MYSELF FLESH IN THE PRESENCE OF THE OTHER IN ORDER TO APPROPRIATE THE FLESH OF THE OTHER. The ideal end of desire is the complete incarnation of both consciousnesses in the embrace, with the elimination of movement, the world, even of consciousness. It is the choice of a mode of consciousness: why does the consciousness choose to annul itself under the form of desire? In desire I live my body in a special manner and the world about me suffers a modification: my body is no longer felt as the instrument which cannot be used by another instrument, corresponding to my acts and to a world of serviceable-things; it is lived as flesh, and it is in reference to my flesh that I apprehend the world about me: I make myself passive, I am more sensible of the material substance of things than of their form and use: consciousness sinks into a body which sinks into the world. I come very near to being a thing in the middle of the world, and very like the dead. The meaning of all this is in the attempt to seize the liberty of the other in itself by reducing it to its identity with the palpable. This ideal aim is inevitably frustrated by turning into mere power over the body of the other. I wish to be drunk by my body as the ink by a drunkard in order that the other shall do likewise. The consummation of the sexual act disturbs the profounder intention, which anyhow is doomed to frustration since it is self-contradictory. The liberty, subjectivity, of the other cannot be seized physically.

HJ Blackham
Six Existentialist Thinkers (Sartre)