INKLING_SLLPhotographs by Stephen Ledger-Lomas

In the first edit of this piece I drew on the thought of many famous men: Deleuze and Guattari, Derrida, Badiou Negri and Hardt, as well as the theory collective Tiqqun. There are still sneaky traces of this here and there. I was attempting to map the dangerous terrain in which I currently find myself, fairly unchartered and yet common to many women. I was trying to voice the impossibility of the situation of being a self-classificatory girl ‘in love’ with a man.  There is something shameful in speaking about this, which cannot be explained by comprehending it in terms of the disclosure of something private. Indeed here I’d like to reconsider love as something that works against the sphere and notion of the ‘private.’ The embarrassment that grips me every time I utter the words ‘I am in love’ is down to my queasy recognition of the extent to which I am shaped by sentimental conformism. These words acknowledge my tacit complicity in the kind of trite normativity that I otherwise hope to destroy.

In order to speak of myself I turned to philosophers and theorists, predominantly male and canonised academics (despite their radical credentials.) The irony of this move now strikes me as obvious, but it is also essential to an understanding of how rare it is to speak seriously from this position, a rarity to which Chris Kraus’s wonderful I Love Dick testifies. Discussing ‘girl-stuff’ like love whilst much of my thought has been formed from within an academic milieu is uncomfortable. I feel like a self-conscious adolescent, agonizingly aware of my own naivety whilst powerless to shed it.

As girls and women we are produced within the shadow of expectation, hoping and waiting to be realised in our role as lover and beloved. Borrowing from a seething de Beauvoir we could say ‘Her youth is consumed in waiting, more or less disguised. She is awaiting Man.’ This is exactly the kind of crap that I hate from my sheared head down to my Foucauldian toes. Its capacity to restrict and limit the possibilities of life is so miserable. I don’t want to practice a form-of-life that can only imitate the faded familiar image of lack and insipid desire. This kind of love entails a deadened process of self-valorization and replication, ‘loving’ only through a dreary loop of repetition and consumption.

But here I am, and in classifying myself as ‘in love’ I contribute to the reification of the gender binaries that I consciously aim to disrupt. And yet, what else can I say? I have no other language with which to speak the feeling that consumes me, but at the same time I am painfully aware of the narrative into which I write myself, simply by speaking of myself as an object to be consumed. In speaking from the subject-organism position of ‘girl’ am I doomed to love on the condition that I remain within the terms sanctioned by GRAZIA? Concerned only with my value as love/sex object and therefore with who wants to consume me.

What do I mean when I say I am in love? It seems that I am designating a certain relation of force, or rather forces, that results from a relation with another person. Whilst the term entails some sense of a collision or comingling, the longing for the object of one’s desire necessarily involves a cementation of identity. In love = I + an Other. For the formulation of ‘being in love’ exists between two gendered individuals. As Deleuze candidly remarked, ‘If you’re trapped in the dream of the Other, you’re fucked.’ How to break out of this dream? It seems that as a woman in love I might indeed just be ‘fucked,’ or rather, I participate in fucking myself.  By subjecting the possibility of experience to a taxonomic regime I neutralise in advance the disruptive force that such an experience could entail, precluding the fullness of loving. In comprehending myself through the terms of a romanticized heterosexual paradigm, do I reify the weapons that destroy the very possibility of ‘true’ love?

How to get out of this double bind? Distinguishing between two understandings of love allows one to forge an escape route.  This distinction is already at work in my questions, and betrays my debt to a strain of thought common to those that I mentioned at the start. We can differentiate between the state of ‘being in love’ that is tied to norms of gender and identity, and love as a political and ethical force that ruptures such normative categories. The latter sense of  ‘love’ is not restricted to the feelings that I may currently harbor for a particular man; instead it is a revolutionary force that is pregnant with radical possibilities.

In becoming aware of the way in which the dream ‘of the Other’ limits and conditions the possibilities of my experience, I might harness the danger of my current position and dissolve the very terms that ground it. Love must be pushed to such intensity that it no longer resembles any prior image, and indeed the singular attribute of the love that I am positing as goal and project is its ability to loosen and destroy the stasis of replicated image.  It might be transformed from an inescapable fate and prison for women, to an especially relevant concept and practice in the strategies of feminist struggles.

Love can be understood as an experimentation with the body’s capacities to affect and be affected, unraveling and disorganizing the woman-form and the strictures of identity, becoming a matter of destructive creation and breaking out of the sad loop of consumption and self-valorization. The aim is to discard the models of romance and move towards the unknown in the spirit of the romantics. Dunno how though. Obviously it is not that easy, one cannot simply choose to move from the all-encompassing state of being-in-love to the communitarian revolutionary wave of Love. Perhaps we must remain on the borderline, lurching giddily in a shared task of self-fashioning and experimentation. As Rilke puts it, ‘It is good to love because love is difficult. For one human being to love another human being: that is perhaps the most difficult task that has been entrusted to us, the ultimate task, the final test and proof, the work for which all other work is preparation.’