Wednesday, April 27, 2011

The Revenge of the Slave? - Master/ Slave Sexual Politics

Been reading Abrams on Hegel's Phenomenology of the Spirit. The master-slave dialectic is one that ultimately salvages the slave because 'freedom' is predicated on consistent interaction with the external world. The master, because of his indolence, idealism and lack of participation in material activities, becomes detached from external realities. The slave engages with external objects on a daily basis, identifying them and shaping them according to his own personhood. The master loses touch with reality; the slave salvages reality.

I am led to wonder if the slave would not, in the process of constantly grappling with external objects and processes, fetishize the master and look upon him as another relational source of external manipulation.

The oppressed identify a great deal with the oppressor (Paulo Freire, Pedagogy of the Oppressed), and begin to house the oppressor consciousness within them. The oppressed man is both himself and the oppressor consciousness housed within him.

Will not then the process of identification become, in an act of displacement, a sexual craving and aspiration? Sexual union with the master is a visibly sublimated compensation for years of servitude. When the violence in such a union is not projected outward to a direct assault on the physicality of the master, it is inverted and allowed to fester inside, in gross triumphalism and recognition of sexual concessions from the master. The aspiration to sexual union with the master becomes inextricably intertwined with the oppressor consciousness within, leading the slave to become immersed in expectations of this sort. The anticipated sexual union with the master becomes a driving force propelling the unconscious, annihilating vestiges of the rebelliousness of the slave. The slave becomes complicit in the process of desiccating the oppressed consciousness within him, i.e. his real consciousness, and begins to wallow in the falsity of the oppressor consciousness. He enacts the desperate craving for sexual union with the master through clandestine means. He often denies the unconscious and repressed motives driving his perversity. Beyond the realm of his understanding, for he is so immersed in the hunt for sexual contact with the master, the self-hatred and self-denigration in his mind fester and grow and overpower all other unconscious motives - leading him to hate his own skin, his own flesh, the oppressed consciousness within him (his real consciousness) - sublimated, ultimately, to a false sense of detachment from reality - from the reality of his own racial externalities. When the slave is doubly repressed, i.e. belongs to a sexual minority, the craving for sexual union with the master masquerades and operates as an escape mechanism.

What Hegel suggests the slave achieves through identification with external conditions is defeated by the slave's desire for sexual union with the master.

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