This week, we're reading selections from Intercourse, by Andrea Dworkin (referenced in at least one, if not both, of the Atlantic articles from last week), This Sex Which Is Not One, by Luce Irigaray, and if we have time, the last chapter of James Joyce's Ulysses.
"The men are tortured in their minds by the meaning of being naked, especially by the literal nakedness of women but also by their own nakedness: what it means to be seen and to be vulnerable. [...] The women are at ease being naked. ...being naked does not unnerve or expose her. [...] Men's nakedness is unbearable to them without the nakedness of a woman; men need women to survive their own nakedness" (40-41).Dworkin maintains that men's inability to reconcile their nakedness is due to their obsession with identity. Men are self-absorbed; therefore, their sex is wrapped up in abstraction, in looking without touching, in thinking rather than feeling. Men can't really touch because touch is real, and what is real may not be what the man wants. Since men can't really touch, they can never really dissolve their skin, lose their boundaries, and fuse with another person. Throughout the chapter Dworkin examines these ideas in the work of author Kobo Abe, and one of her examples is a man who barricaded a woman in a house with him and shut off the electricity so that in the dark, as long as he didn't touch her, he could pretend she was naked and be comforted, because:
"The women are the escape route from mental self-absorption into reality: they are the world, connection, contact, touch, feeling, what is real, the physical, what is true outside the frenetic self-involvement of the men, the convulsions of their passionate self-regard" (42).