Revolution is another Climax
During Summer 2019 I contributed to the article Revolution is Another Climax written by the scholars Shilyh Warren and Beatrix Balanta, which will be publish by the journal Women & Language in Fall 2021. I participated to the project by producing a set of handmade collages representing vaginas and clitorises. In the article Warren and Balanta inquire about the role of woman’s sexual pleasure in the history of feminism and they denounce a lack of academic investigation about the importance of woman’s orgasm for feminist politics. Warren and Balanta address how patriarchal culture promotes racism, sexism, and capitalism in a way that mortifies and oppresses woman’s body. Because of this, woman’s sensorial pleasure and woman’s sexual satisfaction represent activities that counter the oppressive action of patriarchal culture. They associate women’s sexual satisfaction with independence and agency and because of this, they sustain that female pleasure has to be considered an important element of the feminist political agenda and feminist academic investigation.
In my art I visually convey the patriarchal perception of woman’s orgasm as wicked and threatening as investigated in the article. In The Malleus Maleficarum of 1486, for example, the clitoris was associated with women’s witchcraft and it was considered a sort of nipple that the Devil and his demons used to suck to seduce women. Other writers such as Jacques Daléchamps and Ambroise Paré in French Surgery (1570) and Des monstres et prodiges (1573) manifest their anxiety about the idea that women could feel pleasure by touching their clitorises and they denounce the existence of clitorises that were so big that they could to be used by women as a penis to seduce other women.
In my art I also visually communicate Warren’s and Balanta’s understanding of orgasm as an important and significant event by referring to their examination of the scholarly work of Marie Bonaparte. According to them, Bonaparte, despite the limits of her theoretical and scientific approach, represents a pioneering and innovative scholar. This is because she spent her life investigating woman’s orgasm and by doing this she understood the importance of physical pleasure for woman’s life. Because of this, Bonaparte’s scholarly work represents a source of inspiration for the contemporary feminist scholars. Bonaparte conducted her research about woman’s orgasm in the early 20th century by questioning the reason why the majority of women could not achieve orgasm by being penetrated by the penis. She relied on Freud’s theory about the incompleteness of clitoridean orgasm and the necessity for women to achieve orgasm by being penetrated by a man. By investigating the reason why the majority of women could not experience orgasm during their sexual intercourses with their male partners Bonaparte conceived a theory about the connection between orgasm and the distance between the clitoris and the vaginal cavity. According to Bonaparte the more the clitoris and the vaginal cavity were spaced the harder was for woman to experience an orgasm while being penetrated. Bonaparte promoted a cure for women’s frigidity consisting in having their clitorises surgically removed and replaced closer to the vaginal orifice. She tried this treatment on herself three times (it did not work).
In my art I addressed the article’s investigation about how clitoris has been considered by patriarchy as threatening, mysterious, and terrifying. At the same time my art also addresses the importance of woman’s orgasm for feminist politics. I do this by combining visual elements belonging from different environmental and industrial settings such as clams, shells, teeth, natural landscapes, precious gems, and pastries.
In some of my collages the clitorises have the appearance of marine monsters that have teeth and fangs. By doing this I play with the patriarchal representation of woman’s organ as scary and dangerous. Other collages represent long and protruding penis-like clitorises addressing Daléchamps’s and Paré’s anxieties about the possibility for woman’s clitoris to serve as a phallus.
Other collages are composed by satellite pictures and maps. By doing this, I represent my vaginas as mysterious and fascinating lands--a foreign territory that man fears and desires and that he wishes to discover, conquest, and control. At the same time, the visual connection between sexual pleasure and geography addresses the need for feminist academic researchers to explore the importance of woman’s orgasm and its connection with the feminist political agenda. I also visually address the importance of orgasm for feminism by representing vaginas as composed with fragments of colorful and precious gems and by making vaginas appear to be expensive and costly items. I also represent vaginas by combining pieces of cakes, cookies, and donuts to address the craving and desire that women such as Bonaparte experienced, as she strived to understand the functioning of her sexuality. I pay homage to Bonaparte’s investigation of woman’s orgasm by referring to her theory about the connection between orgasm and the distance between clitoris and vaginal cavity. I do this by showing this distance as diverse and variable in the different collages referring to the content of the article.