Monday, February 4, 2013

Ephemeral Blaznous

by Kathleen Bradean



Recent studies have determined that your brain doesn’t distinguish between actually doing something and reading about it. So my sex scene can make your brain think you actually had a sexual experience?  I don't think so. It might get you in the mood. It might set off body responses tied to arousal. But how much of that is the brain and how much is the body? Do the mechanisms of arousal (such as increased blood flow to the genitals) start a feedback loop of sexual expectation and more arousal? And is there causality between expectation and experience when you read? If you expect to be scared by a horror novel, is it more likely to scare you? Similarly if you expect to be turned on by erotica, are you more likely to get aroused?
I think quite a bit about what’s erotic and I have no clue how to begin to discuss it. Not one. Some things turn me on and I spend a lot of time analyzing why but I never figure it out. Part of that is because there's a gap between what's happening in my brain and my ability to describe it. It’s as if we don’t even have the language to describe the erotic.

When we try to talk about the erotic we often fall back on the symptoms (physical) because the causality (mental) is outside shared experience or whatever it is that gives us the ability to slap a word on an idea and pass it around like an appetizer tray at a party. Sex we can talk about forever because it’s fairly simple. It can be examined as a purely physical act. The erotic is far more mysterious.
There are infinite colors outside the visible spectrum and I guarantee you not one is named. Things can exist without having a word attached, but that makes it awfully hard to discuss them. So for the sake of argument, think of the concept of an unimaginable color and call it Ephemeral Blaznous. Why Blaznous? Because it couldn’t be called Ephemeral Blue. There may be millions of shades of blue but blue is a specific idea. Blue is something we can talk about and the letters B-L-U-E in that arrangement can contain the concept of it in text and evoke the image of it.The erotic isn't as easy as blue. As an idea, it's a slippery sucker that dodges just as you try to pin a definition on it. It changes over time. It hovers outside the spectrum. It's blaznous.(and yes, that's a made up word)
I could tell you about things that turn me on, but only a general description of what I saw or read and I can't tell you why. The actual trigger, if there’s only one and it isn’t a cumulative thing, is a big old mystery. This is why I'm a bit in awe of the "porn" writers who can reach out and evoke a physical response to their words in just a few paragraphs. There's a real art to that. But it doesn't quite fit my idea of the erotic. What's most erotic thing? I don’t know it. Often, stories or movies almost reach the state of pure eroticism for me, but then they devolve into the physical because it’s easier that way or because the artist felt a need to resort to the shared vocabulary of sex or maybe they reach that state of Ephemeral Blaznous where everything gets hazy and fragments into uncertainty, and while they can reach for it, they can never drag it into the visible spectrum.  Much like my thoughts on this topic.

9 comments:

  1. And is there causality between expectation and experience when you read? If you expect to be scared by a horror novel, is it more likely to scare you? Similarly if you expect to be turned on by erotica, are you more likely to get aroused?

    Yes. Yes. And yes. Expectation is part of the game. Sometimes, the biggest part. Anticipation often overshadows the actual act.

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  2. Hi Kathleen!

    It's true, it's hard to pin down, there are so many sides to it. But I think its worth thinking about because it represents a trail that can shows us aspects about ourselves because its such a core part of who we are. It's difficult.

    Garce

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  3. Lots of interesting ideas here, Kathleen, even if you can't come to a conclusion. I honed in on this one:

    "What's most erotic thing? I don’t know it. Often, stories or movies almost reach the state of pure eroticism for me, but then they devolve into the physical because it’s easier that way or because the artist felt a need to resort to the shared vocabulary of sex"

    The implication here (or perhaps I'm reading you wrong) is that bringing explicit sexual description into the mix actually decreases the eroticism of a scene/story/experience. A fascinating notion, one I think could be supported by argument (but I'm too hungry at the moment to take on that challenge).

    Certainly I find many situations with no overt sexual content to be erotic. I'm reminded of a scene in the movie Girl with the Pearl Earring. The painter is inserting the earring - his wife's - in the maid's ear, before starting to paint her. The intimacy of this scene left me breathless, though from a sexual perspective, nothing happened.

    And Brigit (hello and welcome!), I agree with you. The anticipation, the expectation, can be far more erotic than the consummation.

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  4. By the way, "Ephemeral Blaznous" might make a good story title. Maybe for something steampunk ;^)

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  5. Brigit- "Yes. Yes. And yes. Expectation is part of the game. Sometimes, the biggest part. Anticipation often overshadows the actual act." That expresses it eloquently. My idea of the erotic seems to be more in the seduction than the act, and seduction is all about anticipation.

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  6. Garce - definitely worth mulling over, but sometimes when I get too mired down in thought and theory, I feel like a hamster on a wheel, running in little circles and getting nowhere. But what the heck would I do with the answer if I had it?

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  7. Lisabet - after I posted it, I felt bad for saying "devolved" into the physical, because as you know, the physical can be sublime. It's not less than the mental. So I didn't quite hit the mark there. But I thought about that moment in the Girl With the Pearl Earring and other moments from books and movies we bring up often when talking about the erotic and they are almost always moments pregnant with potential. Those are the elusive moments I want to capture but again, while I can describe them, I can't put my finger on why they take me to that place.

    "By the way, "Ephemeral Blaznous" might make a good story title. Maybe for something steampunk ;^)" It sounds like something out of the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy to me.

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  8. Kathleen, your post perfectly explains why I had trouble approaching this topic myself! I think we all know that writing about the erotic is vastly different from having sex (no matyter how we would rate that experience on a scale of 0-10). I love the metaphor of colours that aren't defined -- because they really exist, but how do we describe or convey them? I think you should use "Ephemeral Blaznous" as the name for something. (Maybe a drug so new it hasn't been outlawed yet.) :)

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  9. Jean - it's a difficult thing, isn't it? Or maybe I'm overthinking the whole thing.

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