We live in an age of spiritual uncertainty. Our minds are dulled by the mediocrity of the television, the unrelenting promise of contentment when we buy the latest Ford. At one time we used to enjoy the sweetness of a peach, the lazy coolness of an afternoon. Back in those days, did desire even exist? Nowadays that peculiar creature is put in a cage and studied, measured, psychoanalyzed. Nothing is wrong with analysis. That is the affliction of our time, and we play the game like pros. But analysis creates distance, and pleasure is about connection, union, harmony. Pleasure is about grasping the cookie, not dividing each millimeter of movement into smaller sections and looking for answers at the subatomic level. The Buddha once said there was infinite pleasure in eating a peach. The statement itself is a classic Buddhist paradox. Naming a pleasure is to deny it exists. No, that’s not exactly right. The naming process erases the memory of the sensation. We remember the pleasure of eating a peach until the time we realize we remember. Proust discovers the madeleine not through any conscious process but accident.
This argument produces a contradiction. Does Proust deface pleasure by writing about it? Does the pleasure of creating exist only for the creator (the audience be damned!)? Obviously this is not true. People read about Proust’s madeleine not to enjoy the madeleine vicariously but to see Proust’s relation to it and to contemplate what objects might trigger such epiphanies in their own lives. The most revolutionary impact on porn on viewers, Bernard Arcand notes, is to inform them about the variety of pleasures and sexual possibilities that can exist. Porn can be criticized on purely moral grounds, but the more interesting question to me is whether the knowledge of new sexual possibilities caused by porn can makes us better lovers or better people or even happier people. Does the public projection of sexuality (through webcams, online fiction, chat or other multimedia) enhance sexual fulfillment or simply mask private unease? In using porn, the viewer isn’t actually a participant of pleasure-taking, nor does he really imagine himself in the picture (although with technological advances, that could easily change). For the viewer or virtual participant, the mere contemplation of the erotic possibility is sufficient to bring satisfaction. Reality, of course, is irrelevant.