May 21, 2010

Beauty, Eros, and the Particular

Culture, Opinion, Philosophy 7 Comments

Studies in Desire, by Dawn Kaczmar

“Beauty always takes place in the particular, and if there are no particulars, the chances of seeing it go down.” — Elaine Scarry

I have been mulling over the idea that beauty is, in essence, a particular trait over the past few weeks in considering my own conceptions and occasions of beauty. And it is true: ubiquity renders beauty meaningless. Prolonged and repeated exposure to the same instance mutes its vibrancy and reduces its intensity to marginality. Moreover, beauty, in the absence of a particular, in the absence of an object in which to attach itself, is merely an abstract, intangible idea, rather than a visceral experience that causes aesthetic arrest and curiosity. It is in the application of beauty to a particular object or event that reveals its form and intensity.

If beauty always takes place in the particular, the same seems true for the erotic. For instance, I have noticed that through the mass production and sale of orchids, the flower, once a symbol of eroticism, has become dead and neutral to me. Or, I may have an idea of an erotic concept, but without embodiment and experience, without knowledge of the particular way in which my beloved’s skin responds under my fingers, for instance, the desire remains dormant.

In order to engage with the erotic, the particulars must be either experienced or, at the very least, thoroughly imagined. The visceral experience of an erotic moment is dependent on the participation of both the erotic as an intangible desire and the erotic as a specifically embodied phenomenon.

The movement between imagination and action is crucial: one informs the other. In fantasy, one finds impetus for action; in action, one is surprised by the exact physical sensation, previously unknown in its full capacity: that is at once shattering, exhilarating, and inspiring in the creation of new fantasies. It is shattering in that to experience a fantasy is to step into the unknown and unexpected world of reality wherein the possible becomes real, the un-thought-of becomes replaced with known facts. There is a point at which there is always some fear present, even if only slight, in the enactment of a fantasy: to live so fantastically, so intensely, can be overwhelming.

Therefore, if I fantasize about a certain scenario, the act of actually experiencing it inherently changes the content of the fantasy by informing of it real-life details. Although the realization of fantasy is often discussed as an annihilation of allure and mystery — both of which often serve to facilitate and prolong fantasy, it is also true that the actualization of a desire, with known facts, can instead inform fantasy and the creation of new desires. Action and imagination, then, can inform and feed each other in a self-propelling cycle.

Eros: An Introduction
Erotic Obstructions


Dawn Kaczmar attempts to distill the exquisitely useless beauty of information; across theory and practice, across possession and obstruction, she seeks the fleeting and overarching truths of eros. Dawn is currently a freelance writer with a background in philosophy and literature.

More Posts

  • Pingback: Tweets that mention Beauty, Eros, and the Particular | Sex and the 405 --

  • Rebecca

    I really like this. I love how you write about how the fantastical informs reality not to annihilate fantasies, but actually open further threads.

    Perhaps it’s just because I’m reading this right now, but part of this post reminds me of Terry Tempest Williams’ Beauty in a Broken World. The way you write about absence and objects reminds me of her mosaic study, in which cut stones relate to one another by the absences between them. (She also quotes Elaine Scarry in the book, so perhaps that was a point of reference in my memory.)

    This was really delightful to read. I feel like in today’s technological world there are so many flat instances and images of eroticism– like the mass production of orchids, we are shown what should attract us. While those images are probably a part of us sub-consciously, it is wonderful and inspiring to read about a more creative engagement with eros. I really love your writing; thank you for engaging so directly and exploring so fantastically. :)

  • Dawn

    Thank you for your thoughtful comment! There are definitely a lot of potential points of discussion here.

    “We are shown what should attract us” –yes. And so many of those images are repetitive and manufactured that they lose their erotic value. The things that have truly struck me as profound and indeed caused erotic arrest have been things so subtle, personal, and specific that they are, for the most part, impossible to recreate. And connected to that is my thoughts concerning the way in which the subtle can often be much more powerful than the graphic in regards to the erotic.

  • Dawn

    Was re-reading The Unbearable Lightness of Being and this line seemed applicable to the post: “Culture is perishing in overproduction, in an avalanche of words, in the madness of quantity.”

  • Pingback: Eros: An Introduction | Sex and the 405

  • Pingback: The Erotic Temporal Arc: Decay, Return, and Eternity | Sex and the 405

  • Pingback: Unhinging Theory: Eros | Sex and the 405


Add our page on Google+!

Keep up with everything we're covering right in your stream. Please note this page is limited to users 18+.


Gamers Won’t Be Seduced, Will Stare At Random Cleav Instead

That Steam allows the objectification and sexualization of female characters in a variety of its games but refuses to accept a game about actually engaging with women in a more interactive fashion is astonishingly backward.

FetLife Is Not Safe for Users

That the site doesn’t take measures to protect user content and has shown incompetence or negligence in regard to user privacy, all the while prohibiting victims from warning others about predatory behavior creates an environment where it is nearly impossible for members of the community to take care of themselves and one another. By enabling FetLife to continue espousing a code of silence, allowing the spinning self-created security issues as “attacks,” and not pointing out how disingenuous FetLife statements about safety are, we are allowing our community to become a breeding ground for exploitation.

Why You Should Vote No On Prop 35

Should people who benefit (parents, siblings, children, roommates!) from the earnings of “commercial sex acts” (any sexual conduct connected to the giving or receiving of something of value) be charged with human trafficking? Should someone who creates obscene material that is deemed “deviant” be charged as with human trafficking? Should someone who profits from obscene materials be charged with human trafficking? Should people transporting obscene materials be charged with human trafficking? Should a person who engages in sex with someone claiming to be above the age of consent or furnishing a fake ID to this effect be charged with human trafficking? What if I told you the sentences for that kind of conviction were eight, 14 or 20 years in prison, a fine not to exceed $500,000, and life as a registered sex offender?

Pretty and Calls Herself a Geek? Attention Whore!

If you are a woman, you might be given a chance to prove yourself in this community. Since there is no standard definition of what a “geek” is and it will vary from one judge to the next anyway, chances of failing are high (cake and grief counseling will be available after the conclusion of the test!). If you somehow manage to succeed, you’ll be tested again and again by anyone who encounters you until you manage to establish yourself like, say, Felicia Day. But even then, you’ll be questioned. As a woman, your whole existence within the geek community will be nothing but a series of tests — if you’re lucky. If you aren’t lucky, you’ll be harassed and threatened and those within the culture will tacitly agree that you deserve it.

Cuddle Chemical? Moral Molecule? Not So Fast

Zak’s original field, it turns out, is economics, a far cry from the hearts and teddy bears we imagine when we consider his nickname. But after performing experiments on generosity, Zak stumbled on the importance of trust in interactions, which led him, rather inevitably, to research about oxytocin. Oxytocin, you might remember, is a hormone that has been linked previously to bonding — between mothers and children primarily, but also between partners. What Zak has done is take the research a step further, arguing in his recent book, The Moral Molecule, that oxytocin plays a role in determining whether we are good or evil.

How to Avoid Pissing off a Stripper

Let’s talk about the strippers. Whether they like to be half-naked or not, whether they enjoy turning you on or not, there’s one thing they all have in common: they’re working. Whether you think that taking one’s clothes off for money is a great choice of career is really beside the point (is it a possibility for you to make $500 per hour at your job without a law degree? Just asking). These women are providing fantasy, yes, but that is their job. And as a patron of the establishment where they work, you need to treat them like you would anyone else who provides a service to you.


Send us news!

AV Flox

In-House Theologian:
Robert Fischer

Eros and Desire Scholar:
Dawn Kaczmar

Scientific Consultant:
Jason Goldman

East Coast Liaison:
Jackie Summers

Barbie Davenporte

Read about the contributors we've had over time on our staff page.

Follow SAT405 on:


Hosted by (mt)


Sex and the 405 is what your newspaper would look like if it had a sex section.

Here you’ll find news about the latest research being conducted to figure out what drives desire, passion, and other sex habits; reviews of sex toys, porn and other sexy things; coverage of the latest sex-related news that have our mainstream media's panties up in a bunch; human interest pieces about sex and desire; interviews with people who love sex, or hate sex, or work in sex, or work to enable you to have better sex; opinion pieces that relate to sex and society; and the sex-related side of celebrity gossip. More...