Scribbling on foucault’s walls: #7 Heterotopia

Posted: November 5, 2010 in Uncategorized
The heterotopia is capable of juxtaposing in a single real place several spaces, several sites that are in themselves incompatible.
Michel Foucault needs to get out. He has had a tough weekend with his daughter. After their nightwalk through Paris, they bonded, but she was still confused and obviously upset about the events that had preceeded their little nocturnal adventure. During the drive back to her mother’s she had been totally silent and when he said goodbye, though she let him kiss her there was no reciprocation, no tight embrace that he was used to. Why he ever thought he deserved it in the first place now strikes him as ludicrous. He is the one tearing this girl’s life apart, and he expects some kind of maturity of comportment on her part. Quel con! What an idiot.

And so he goes on his own night time adventure. Foucault has not heard from his amant, his lover, since he left in the middle of the night. He knows it is probably his job to call and make things ok but really he is not in the mood for a ‘feelings’ type conversation, or any talk of his child. What would they do, move in together and be weekend parents? He recoils at the thought of replacing one constricting domesticity with another.  Defiant, he finds a bar and orders a cognac. He likes his own company. Even when he knows he can be such a salaud, a bastard.

Once he has nursed a couple of brandies he braves the outside, soon to be the inside, and goes to a club. Le Corbeau, the raven, is one of his favourite ‘sex clubs’ in Paris. But he hates that term ‘sex club’. It’s not the word ‘sex’ that bothers him: he is very comfortable with the notion of ‘sex in the public sphere’. That is what his life’s work has been about so far, after all. No it is the term ‘club’. The way it suggests both a public arena, and a private, select grouping. He does not want to be a member of any club. And he doesn’t want to be on display. But he is interested in some sex in the public sphere, so he takes what is on offer. That is the problem with the public sphere: it is not entirely under his control.

Le corbeau is quite smalll; Michel knows people there.  It is a little off the beaten track. It feels like his territory, his patch.  To get there he turns up a narrow side street, with a couple of bars and restaurants. The entrance to the club is just a doorway in what looks like a normal appartment building. There is not even a sign. He nods to the man on the door, who he knows by sight. And he steps over the threshold into the other world. 

Everywhere is painted black. Black as a corbeau. The bar in the corner of the back room is minimalist. He orders a biere, and sits at a table. There are candles on the tables, in old wine bottles. It is not really like a ‘sex club’ at all. Except for the stairs that go from the hallway down to the basement. Down to the ‘labrynth’. For the moment he is content to sip his beer and let the stress of the weekend wash away from him. Sometimes it seems too easy, how he can be so many different people at once. The father, the ‘philosopher’, the pederaste. And yet he hates all three identities. Not the activities, but the identities they impose on him. Sometimes he hates the activities too. Downstairs in the basement he would just be a pederaste, or on a bad night just a bite, a cock. But here, in this bar, behind the sealed window, where nobody from the outside can look in, he is …who? Because without his roles he really doesn’t know who he is at all. Freedom from identity is at once appealing and frightening. He wishes he’d brought his notebook. He could have written this down. That is one identity he never really lets go of: writer.

Thankfully Michel is rescued from self-inquiry by someone coming over to his table. It is an ex lover of his and he takes him quite by surprise. The man is quite a lot younger than him (they normally are), and fit, alive. It makes him feel old, especially tonight. But he pats the seat next to him. kisses the man’s cheeks. Feels even older as the young man starts talking to him about his life, the men he has been seeing, the parties he has been going to. Michel Foucault starts to wonder what he saw in this rather vacuous individual. But then his companion offers to buy him another beer, and as he walks the few steps over to the bar, Michel sees the boy’s lovely tight ‘cul’ and remembers. The ass is a great leveller between men.

It doesn’t take a whole beer for these two pederastes to run out of conversation. The young man might have managed to chatter away a little longer, but Michel is not in an accomodating mood, and he spends too long between sentences staring into the middle distance. He is not exactly bored by this young man, he just isn’t very interested in him. Not in what he has to say anyway.  There is nothing for it but for them to go downstairs. There is nowhere else to go but down.

He’d forgotten how dark it was. He can barely make out bodies in the gloom. He almost has to cling to to the sides of the walls to avoid stumbling and losing his balance. But as with anything, his eyes get used to the lack of light and he starts to see his environment more clearly. The basement is quite a big space. There is a stage, that is always empty. Apparently it used to be more of a strip-joint, or whatever they called them in the old days, with girls. Sometimes he thinks he might turn up one night and see some scantily-clad women, doing the Can Can. And he wonders if he wouldn’t actually be relieved. Women, on the whole, are much prettier than a room full of ‘encules’. And less demanding. The real action takes place in the darkest recesses of the room. All the world’s a stage. Even this  asshole.

Michel’s young companion has disappeared into an alcove. Michel follows him and is suddenly possessed by something, that familiar feeling between caught in the space between ‘le desir’ and ‘la violence’. The potential to release his demons is what arouses him tonight, more than the sight of the young man, taking off his shirt and whispering, urgently, ‘what do you want?’ It’s not always a good idea to ask Monsieur Foucault what he wants. The impossibility of fulfilling his desires is something he is acutely aware of. He has of course read Lacan. He already had the basic idea. But tonight he lets it pass. He tells the young man to turn round and he presses himself up against him, feeling through both their trousers, his cock start to push against the man’s pretty tight ass. He’d forgotten how ‘bavarde’ this young man could be. How chatty. He is saying how good it feels to have the bulge of Monsieur Foucault’s dick drawing an elegant line down his arsehole through his jeans. What is he some kind of poet now, too? Michel is genuinely irritated. Taking the young man’s arms and pinning them behind his back he hisses in his ear, ‘Shut up, bitch’.

Miraculously the bitch shuts up. 

Suddenly Michel is gripped by an intense feeling of claustrophobia, closely followed by a growing sense of self-hatred. What the hell is he doing in this grimy ‘sous-terre’, his hard cock against the arse of a man he doesn’t really even like? What kind of filthy pederaste is he who only hours before had kissed his young daughter goodbye?  And hours before that had ignored his lover as he slammed out of his appartment. Since Paul Mirguet and his Gaullist colleagues had legislated for homosexuality to be named a ‘scourge’, along with alcoholism, whoredom and transvestism, Michel, even the analytical, philosophical Michel Foucault, had somehow managed to further internalise his feelings of being nothing but a low-down sodomite. Maybe that’s how he had always felt and the 1960 laws just confirmed his suspicions. But his hard cock is not so prone to self-hatred, and it won’t let him give up the ghost altogether. So he grabs the young man’s shirt and turns him around to face him, telling him to get dressed. ‘Viens’ he instructs. ‘on y va’.

The confused young man follows the philosopher up the stairs along the corridor and out into the Paris night. Michel breathes the air with relief, and then marches up the hill towards Montmatre without checking to see if his young disciple is following. But he is. Like a loyal puppy.

Eventually, a little breathless, they find themselves in a bower in the cemetry, next to some disused, rejected and broken gravestones. The nameless faceless dead are witnessing their tryst. It is quite a warm night and Foucault instructs the young man to undress. He pushes him up against the trunk of  a tree, his skin scratching against the bark. He places a hand on the man’s neck, briefly, with force. ‘Keep still. Don’t talk’ he says. And then he unzips his trousers and takes his own cock in his hands and shoves it deep into the bitch’s ass. When he makes a sound, Michel just puts a hand over his mouth and pounds him harder. He knows the bark must be chafing the young man’s delicate skin. He leans his body further against him to make it hurt more.  Sex is power. Pleasure is pain. You don’t get one without the other. Michel Foucault is putting his theory into practice. The bitch just has to take it.  The philosopher then pushes him down onto his knees. Takes the boy’s head by his hair and instructs him to suck. He sucks. Michel Foucault gives his knowledge to his student, the white, sticky discourse finding its way down the boy’s throat, bits of it dribbling down his chin. He swallows hard. He has learned his lesson. 

When they walk back down the path, amongst the official, respectable graves of people whose names were important enough to be remembered, the silence between the two men is less enforced than before. They have communicated something in the darkness.  

They part at the cemetery gates. This is the border between their illicit, unsanctioned underworld, and the outside, regulated public domain. It is also the border between life and death itself, the border between the policing of living bodies and the strange sanctifying of dead ones.

‘The heterotopia is capable of juxtaposing in a single real place several spaces, several sites that are in themselves incompatible’.

All this and it is just two men, standing by a gate.  But only one of them as thinking these philosophical thoughts. The other one is thinking it is getting a bit cold standing around with this old mec, and he would like to be somewhere else. Somewhere a bit more hip. They kiss politely. They don’t say ‘a la prochaine’. There may not be a next time.

Foucault walks home a little lighter of step than he started the evening. His cares have been temporarily expelled from his body, and into the body of someone who really could do with a bit more substance inside him, a bit more ‘angoisse’. It seems like a fair exchange for once. He avoids streetlights and sticks to the shadows. He knows his place in this city.  A lonely ‘corbeau’ in the dark. He almost  likes it.

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