Transgressive Gothic: The Violence of Pleasure

Posted by Aspasia Stephanou on October 27, 2008 in Blog tagged with

Transgressive Gothic: The Violence of Pleasure


I want to have my throat slashed while violating the girl to whom I will have been able to say: you are the night. “Solar Anus”, G. Bataille


After reading Louise Welsh’s  The Cutting Room, I started thinking about the human obsession with Eros, Thanatos, violence, pleasure and transgression. The book reflects a Sadean perspective on the nature of pleasure and violence, and a Bataillean economy of eroticism that is hard to ignore. The snuff (?) photographs depicting a dead girl after perhaps, violence or torture, rape or sexual ecstasy in pain, are the source of all kinds of questions about reality, violence and pleasure and become the main force that drives the narrative but always leaves the reader asking for more.


In Tears of Eros, Bataille discusses his obsession with a photograph depicting the torture of Fou-Tchou-Li, known as the torture of the Hundred Pieces.



This real torture is unique for Bataille, who says that “through this violence-even today I cannot imagine a more insane, more shocking form-I was so stunned that I reached the point of ecstasy.” (206) Here Bataille stresses what he sees as complete opposites: religious ecstasy and horror.


In an erotic scene from The Cutting Room, which is reminiscent of De Sade, we read:    

             Memories of encounters honed into fuck-triggers. I imagined myself in a movie

             I’d seen…raping this boy…taking him against his will…forcing him into liking a

             big cock up his arse…I was in a tunnel way beneath the city…the smell of ordure

             in my lungs…the scuttle of rats around me…fucking a stranger against the rough

             brick of a wall…The shuffle of footsteps coming closer…My climax was

             building, balls slapping against his buttocks, spunk swelling. The images scrolled

             on. It was coming now…getting close…blood-red vision of the orgasm   

             blackout…Here it came…a wound, red and deep and longing…the dark   

             basement…the slash of blood across her throat…the reflection imposed on the

             inside of my retina as true as if I was looking at the photograph…the girl, used

             and bound, lying dead on her pallet. I came, spurting into him, grasping his

             buttocks for support, rocking with the force of my orgasm. (153)


Images of violence intermingle with the moment of orgasm, of ecstasy, of annihilation, of loss, -“the little death”/la petite mort. This is a significant moment for the subject. It is the decisive moment of resistance against power. The excess of pain and pleasure constitutes an inner experience, a limit experience, a transgressive moment. It is in this gothic space of excess that subjects make and unmake themselves, always becoming.


The ethics of desire, pleasure and pain formulated in the works of Bataille, are also evident in the thought of Foucault as it is obvious in his “Preface to Transgression”. For Bataille, Foucault and also Maurice Blanchot, the limits and prohibitions are closely linked to transgression. Particularly sadism and masochism, the pleasure in pain, offer a space of resistance, of becoming a desiring machine outside the Law. For Deleuze and Guattari,

             the masochist’s suffering is the price he must pay, not to achieve pleasure, but to

             unite the pseudobond between desire and pleasure as an extrinsic measure.

             Pleasure is in no way something that can be attained only by a detour through   

             suffering; it is something that must be delayed as long as possible because it

             interrupts the continuous process of positive desire…In short, a masochist uses

             suffering as a way of constituting a body without organs and bringing forth a

             plane of consistency of desire. (171-2)


So, the process in which the subject controls pleasure, postpones it, is a possible way of reaching the space of desire, of becoming a BwO. Of course there are other ways to become a body without organs, but this is one of the possibilities.

Indeed there seems to be something more than a mere disgust towards images, practices that relate to sadism, masochism and the desire to experience excessive emotions. A limit experience disrupts what is subjected under control, under the symbolic order. It disrupts what is being represented, it causes transgression. Perhaps it offers a gothic space of re-imagining representation, body and self, subjecthood.



Welsh, Louise. The Cutting Room. Edinburgh: Canongate, 2002.


Bataille, Georges. “Solar Anus”. Visions of Excess: Selected Writings, 1927-1939. Ed.  

    Alex Stoekl. Minneapolis: U of Minnesota P, 1993.

—. The Tears of Eros. San Francisco: City Lights, 1989.

Deleuze, Gilles, and Felix Guattari. A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia.      

    London: Continuum, 2004.

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