A professor of neuroanatomy at Groningen University is convinced that all sexual behaviour can be explained with the aid of brain scans and computer models. ‘As long as you programme computers properly, of course you can teach them to fuck,’ were his actual words. His statement testifies to an ancient and outdated view of mankind, the mechanistic vision of the Enlightenment. The professor’s ideas lead to a worldview in which man is seen as nothing more than tissue, cells, molecules, atoms, elementary particles, whose behaviour is laid down in natural laws. Everything that makes us human – cultures, values and standards – falls outside the hard natural sciences. For a true understanding of human sexuality, the humanities are much more important, for example literary studies. In 1928 Bataille published the novella History of the Eye under a pseudonym. It is a gruesome book, which does not allow the reader to assume a voyeuristic role, but makes him, so to speak, complicit in a series of crimes. The book shows clearly that by breaking bounds sexuality turns into violence and from violence into death. Bataille calls orgasm le petit mort. In the little death there is a longing for the great death, the totally other, that might cancel out man’s dreadful existence. The central paradox is that man is only truly human in a desire that drives him to inhumanity.
Bataille spent a long time in psychoanalysis, which made him aware of the unconscious mechanisms that influence human thought processes. In his work Freud showed how associations often operated through the sound of words, and in the novella Bataille associates oeil (eye) with oeuf (egg). The identical initial sound ‘oe’ may have been the reason why he looked for similarities in meaning: eyes and eggs are round and white. In another associative leap he links eye and testicle. In the sentence where he makes the link he manages to make the two resemble each other in sound too. He speaks of ‘testicules’ and ‘globe oculaire’. The shared word cul means cunt or arse in French. Curiously, he goes on to make this a keyword, using it as a synonym for ‘cunt’. In so doing he links the anal and the genital, and a little further on eye, egg and urine. There follows a disturbing confusion of all bodily orifices and all types of fluids: eye – egg – testicle – breast – arse, which secrete tears – sperm – milk – shit – and urine. They can also be destroyed in all kinds of ways: dug out – broken – removed by castration – drunk – severed and deflowered. Because the egg equals the testicle, the female protagonist can satisfy her desire to castrate by crushing an egg between her legs, and because the testicle equals the egg, she can eat the former raw instead of the latter, and because the eye equals the testicle she can stick the eye up her arse, etc. The characters produce a series of metaphors. For example, the woman rolls an egg across her vulva, later she sticks a bull’s testicle in her vagina and finally also a priest’s eye. All these acts are obscene parodies of ‘normal’ intercourse. Georges Bataille, like Sigmund Freud before him, demonstrates clearly that man is potentially a polymorphously perverse creature.