August 16, 2010

Erotic Obstructions

Culture, Philosophy 6 Comments

Studies in Desire, by Dawn Kaczmar

Although I touched on the idea briefly in my first article here at Sex and the 405, I’d like to expand more on the idea of obstruction as it relates to the erotic.

As mentioned, in some ways, obstruction is necessary for any erotic element to exist. Eros, by definition, logically requires a lack: the erotic is a desire for possession; if possession has already been established, there is nothing left to desire. “Possession”, in this sense, can refer to a lot of things, and not simply a jealous lover’s excessive grip on the beloved, but a desire to possess someone’s presence, attention, interest, or longing. It can simply mean that you desire to continue desiring them.

But it requires, by definition, that possession is, at best, fleeting, if not entirely impossible.

To sustain erotic tension, then, some form of obstruction must be present. In Anne Carson’s Eros the Bittersweet, she invokes geometry as a perspective of the erotic: a triangulation of desire. She writes that in each erotic relationship, there are at least three points: the lover, the beloved, and the obstruction. The obstruction suspends the lovers on a plane that prevents them from collapsing into each other; they remain buoyant in their desire for one another through distance. Carson writes that while the point of obstruction is occasionally another lover, a cause of jealousy, that “there are more ways than one to triangulate desire. Not all look triangular in action, yet they share a common concern: to represent eros as deferred, defied, obstructed, hungry, organized around a radiant absence — to represent eros as lack.”

This point of obstruction could be nearly anything. One could find obstruction in boundaries, for instance, in the simple awareness that the two lovers are, in fact, two distinct lovers, noting the infuriating barriers of their own skin as an impossible distance; in the distance one has to cross to kiss the beloved; in the pause between “I love you” and “I love you, too”; in that moment of anticipatory breathlessness.

To desire, then, is to reach across the abyss maintained by the obstruction. And it is an inevitably vain movement, because nothing can ever be possessed completely and indefinitely, but it is in our vanity, our foolishness, that the erotic element presents itself; even while knowing that I can never truly have my beloved, for instance, in any variety of ways possible (time, space, attention), I reach to him or her, and in that exquisite agony of just being too far, I desire. Or, as Carson writes, “the reach of desire is defined in action: beautiful (in its object), foiled (in its attempt), endless (in time).”

The tension resulting from this obstruction can be bittersweet or it can be thrilling; on occasion it is both. For instance, once, during a personal exchange during a period in which we were forced to not see each other for an extended period of time, a lover sent me a quick missive that read solely “every nerve ending profoundly opposed to waiting…”

I considered the intensity of such desire before responding: “yes, but this is such a sweet form of torture. Every neuron charged with electricity. I savor my impatience, my reluctant anticipatory waiting. I like being driven mad like this. Truly, I couldn’t be any happier than if I were strung across a threshold, like a lyre, and plucked only occasionally, the tension reverberating throughout my entire body. Lingering with its aftertaste, longing for its return and sustained by this very arc.”

Eros, then, among its many meanings, ambiguous and occasionally conflicting, is waiting, is distance, is reaching.

Eros: An Introduction
Beauty, Eros, and the Particular


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


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...