Tuesday, 31 March 2009

Richard Timney and the Flight Path of Desire

Now here is an article with an ounce of sense, decency and honesty on Jacqui Smith's husband and those videos. It's by David Aaronovitch in The Times. The word he uses is prurience. It seems the right word to me.

I don't mean, and neither does Aaronovitch, the misuse of public money, which is to be deplored, whether it was for a bathplug, a porn film or a silver Rolls Royce, because that is not what has been making the news. What has, has been the extraordinary revelation that a man has watched a pornographic film - to be precise, that man.

Yes, that man, but if he had simply backed a horse with the money, there wouldn't have been the fuss. No: it's the sniggery, hypocritical, sense of disgrace and utter humiliation that is the corrosive factor, that does the damage. 'Sad wanker' is the story.

Pornography is big business because plenty of people pay for it. That means a lot of people are watching it. To say as much is merely a truism, one that is universally acknowledged but rarely personally admitted. The reason people watch pornography is because it is sexually stimulating. That is the whole point, isn't it?

Then why do all those people - I will assume they are men, and will make no assumptions about women - require sexual stimulation? Isn't there enough out there in real life to satisfy desire? No. There never is. Almost by definition, there cannot be.

Real life is risky, lonely, uncertain, not always successful, sometimes indeed humiliating. In real life, so you are led to believe, you are supposed to perform. Women are supposed to have perfect bodies and the ability to achieve a perfect orgasm every time, men increasingly to have perfect bodies, and to perform the task of bringing the women to perfect orgasm each time. No orgasm means failure and terror. And you can only take so much failure and terror.

Perfect sex and the fulfilment of desire are fantasies. So fantasy-mongers produce the desired situation by employing people to enact it. The women enact perfect orgasms, the men do what men do, which is the rough, yo-ho-ho, sniggery, shameful, ungraceful, unbeautiful thing they have been brought up to regard as a venture between ecstasy and humiliation, and preferably never to speak about (don't touch that, Timmy!) except in the form of hollow, cocksure boasting. But maybe you can stimulate desire by finding that which stimulates you. It may improve things, they think. It excites after all. If you can remain excited then maybe you won't be a failure. There won't be the terror. Maybe, just maybe, you could feel the excitement without the responsibility. Maybe, if it is a choice between private shame and public shame, the private is better. Hence the shameful act, so called because it is accompanied by shame.

Desire and frustration. Desire and guilt. Desire and incapacity. Desire and opportunity. Desire and the moment. Desire outruns the body, the single body. In the end it has no body. What will remain of us is love? What may remain of us is love.

This poem is in 'Reel'. It is an attempt to say something true about that which it is rarely possible even to think about inside one's own head. To be brutally honest but tender at the same time. Because that, on the whole, is what the subject requires.

Romantic Love

It was early November. The grass glowed
under a frame of light. A red bridge crossed
a dual carriageway. The train was lost
between two cities. It was as if it followed
its own chronology forward into time
which sat still watching as it watched birds
and mice, the progress of rust and the words
spoken in each carriage, all with sublime
attention to detail. Not far off but elsewhere
two people were kissing. One’s hand moved
on the other’s breast. A fistful of blonde hair.
The tail of a shirt.
Who else have you loved?
they asked each other. Tell me, was there anyone?
But no one heard them speak. The train moved on.


And two girls in the next seat. One said:
So he
went to the top of the car park and threatened
to throw himself off, but then his friend,
the one who had stolen his lover felt sorry
and joined him and said he’d jump too, so they
came down and went to a club where there were
lapdancers and got drunk. But we’d lost her
in the noise. The wind had carried her away.
Their voices continued lapping as at the bank
of a river, wearing it away with their tongues,
dragging along shopping trolleys, brief ranks
of refuse and the words of popular songs,
and we watched them talking excitedly, their eyes
as dazzling as the wings of household flies.


The man who had raped the girl at the pool recalled
his wife, how he’d bring her her morning tea
then feel her tits, and they’d fall to it enthusiastically.
That at least was his story. His listeners were apalled.
He clearly missed her although he was a brute
who had probably forced her to have sex
on his own terms. By now she was his ex-
and he’d been alone for years. That was the root
of the problem, an educated man remarked.
He talked of fucking. She referred to it
in other terms. It was her breast and not her tit
he held. Such a man should not have embarked
on a mature relationship.
These sorry pricks,
he ventured, are soon hoist by their semantics.


They wouldn’t let go of each other’s hands,
since if they did they might drift apart into
the stream of the universe. And it was true,
they did let go, and there were no real strands
holding them together. But later one
entered the underworld to rescue the other
and they almost made it through, lover to lover.

Two schoolkids were walking home alone
beside the railway line with dark berries
beckoning them and marks where others had lain
among the tussocks with the blood-red stain
on their fingertips, their childhood miseries
gathering dust and weight...

...Incidentals both.
The flight path of desire. The dazzled moth.

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