The Cyborg Future of Enjoyment Part 5/5

(Written 2008)

This does remain a problematic of cyborg theory; that how do “normal” heterosexual unions exist alongside forms of cyborg enjoyment? Haraway has only described the post-genderedness of the cyborg, and not the transition from a gendered to a post-gendered world. The cyborg manifesto is a guideline for socialist-feminists to embrace an affinity and partial identity due to constant mediation, but at this stage the cyborg is still observed by the laws that pre-date it.

Another example of someone who drives for what I call cyborg enjoyment is a girl called Rebecca as described by Robin B. Hamman in his amusingly named M.A. thesis Cyborgasms: Cybersex Amongst Multiple-Selves and Cyborgs in the Narrow-Bandwidth Space of America Online Chat Rooms. Firstly I will describe Rebecca then I will offer comment after. Rebecca is a third year student and someone who enjoys cybersex, her preferred site for this activity is an AOL chat room. She does not feel that casual sex in the real world is morally appropriate, but presumably, not wanting to deny herself satisfaction she engages in sex online. Rebecca rarely has cybersex with men after she has had phone sex with them. To quote Hamman “she is more self-conscious on the telephone than she is online and feels that cybersex is more pleasurable because she has fewer inhibitions there” (para 58). Rebecca admits that she achieves orgasm faster during cybersex than if she were to engage in solitary masturbation and that she was once pursued by a man who “cyberstalked” her and obtained her phone number.

It is interesting that Rebecca should rarely have cybersex with men after she has had phone sex with them, and that she feels more self-conscious on the telephone. This is where I feel the Multiple-Selves part of Hamman’s title is important, Rebecca is able to hide behind a screen during cybersex and that on the phone the voice attached to her real self is given. What is more, fewer inhibitions during cybersex lead to a more pleasurable experience. What I have mentioned about the deontologicizing aspect of jouissance may apply here to Rebecca. Bearing in mind Rebecca has not admitted to being scared of physical sex, indeed it seems she does partake in it, only it goes against her morals to engage in it casually, but what appeals her to cybersex is that there is little she feels she cannot do, that there are no limits. Indeed when one is multiple-selved as one is online (behind the screen) there are no limits, unlike when there is one self involved, as she feels phone sex is more likely to reveal. If this is the case with phone sex, physical sex must impose these same limits. As I have mentioned before of Erika, she feels she isn’t satisfied when she has inhibitions, when we are given a glimpse of what Erika does do for satisfaction, we only then realize the full weight of those inhibitions. Since there is an element of satisfaction for Rebecca revealed only during cybersex which is prohibited during other forms of sex, we have realized an example of what cyborg enjoyment could be. One who engages in cybersex, it seems, avoids prohibitions encountered elsewhere. Could experiences like this be the future of enjoyment? The only thing obstructing this, perhaps, is the real-world reality principle, characterized in Rebecca’s experience as the ‘cyberstalker’ who obtained her phone number.

In a few years time cybersex will seem like a most outdated form of cyborg enjoyment. On the market there are more gadgets promising pure pleasure than there are promising to simulate the (hetero-)sexual activity in its totality. More electronic products are available that stimulate the body rather than simulate the physical engagement; strange that the market accommodates for those who seek jouissance over plasir substitutes.

But I will avoid being misunderstood as pursuing the argument that cyborg enjoyment is simply a new era of virtual sex toys – this is not my focus at all. My nexus is this: jouissance as the deontological self-enclosed experience perfectly encapsulates Haraway’s notion of the cyborg as partial rather than whole (or, not-all, pastoute). Jouissance is itself a ‘border war’ – at once driven to exceed the pleasure principle as defined by the symbolic order, but also that jouissance requires more (Encore!) than the phallus, that it requires Woman to be more than she is ontologically constituted to be. Indeed the cyborg is the only theory which promises partiality of masculinity, thus an injunction into the symbolic order, which can maintain the guarantee of sanity – the positive element of the symbolic order. Moreover, the cyborg theory is the premise that humans are already bound in their techno-scientific environs, the excess of life that is jouissance is also mediated by these same environmental factors.

To recap, for Woman, the death drive can be the drive towards deviating a given ontological constitution, but is hindered by the reality principle. Since for the cyborg there is no gender the cyborg world will not be constituted upon phallocentrism – the Haraway-Lacanian cyborg might be what feminist sexual politics has been searching for. The problem concerning real-world reality principles may be temporary according to cyborg theorists, but nonetheless it remains a problem. Though, on the plus side, the cyborg does provide another shift for the Lacanian-Feminists.


The infamous picture of Donna Haraway and her dog can be found here

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Brennan, Teresa. Lacan After History. London: Routledge, 1993

Grosz, Elizabeth. Jacques Lacan: A Feminist Introduction. London: Routledge, 1990

Hamman, Robin B. “Cyborgasms: Cybersex Amongst Multiple-Selves and Cyborgs in the Narrow-Bandwidth Space of America Online Chat Rooms.”

[] (1 Jun 2008)

Haraway, Donna. “A Cyborg Manifesto: Science, Technology, and Socialist-Feminism in the Late Twentieth Century” In Simians, Cyborgs and Women: The

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___________ The Parallax View. Massachusettes: Massachusettes Institute of Technology, 2006b