In Audre Lorde’s essay, “Uses of the Erotic,” she discusses the cost of the detachment of the erotic as a source of power and the effect its loss has on women’s existence. Basically, the erotic is a source of power that has the ability to create change. She writes, “[the] erotic is a resource within each of us that lies in a deeply female and spiritual plane, firmly rooted in the power of our unexpressed or unrecognized feeling. In order to perpetuate itself, every oppression must corrupt or distort those various source of power within the culture of the oppressed that can provide energy for change” (Lorde 53). In an effort to avoid change, the oppressive systems must corrupt our connection with the erotic.
The oppressive systems have created a “false belief” of the erotic with pornography, creating a “distrust” and “fear” in women of their erotic power. Lorde explains, “For this reason we have often turned away from the exploration and consideration of the erotic as a source of power and information, confusing it with its opposite, the pornographic” (54). She creates a binary between pornography which “emphasizes sensation without feeling,” versus the erotic which is sensation with feeling but also satisfaction, purpose and satiety (Lorde 54). She connects this to our sense of work, to not just work for “bread,” but a sense of purpose. In this way, through the power of the erotic, our work becomes not an experience of riches, but one of richness. Our work then “becomes a conscious decision” (Lorde 55).
I think one of the most powerful points of her essay is where she clarifies that distancing ourselves from the power of the erotic is “not self-discipline, but self-abnegation,” and that it should not be admired, but avoided. Lorde also points out that our fear of the erotic power keeps us “docile” and that “[r]ecognizing the power of the erotic within our lives can give us the energy to pursue genuine change within our world” (59).
Could a marker that we have tapped into the erotic is when we experience “flow”? What are other markers?
How does that pursuit of “genuine change” connect to Cohen’s “sites of transformation”?
How did the erotic come to be connected with the pornographic? When did that shift happen?