TLDR; Eroticism has reappeared, incarnated by the Soundcloud rapper wave. The whole phenomenon is powered by social media algorithms, abstracting capitalism from humanity, letting his subjects to submit themselves to their own will for erotic destruction.

If you consider Romeo and Juliette, Anna Karenina, The Red And The Black, they all have  this one thing in common, this element of illicit, or at least considered illicit at the time. But in the 20th century, with the disintegration of moral and spiritual values, it became increasingly difficult , and finally impossible, for an author to credibly create that kind of situation, to conceive a relationship which would produce shock and estrangement – so that what was resorted to, to achieve the shock value, was erotic description.

– Stanley Kubrick about Lolita, 1962

We can abstract distribution of sexual arousal to two mains actors : Netflix and Pornhub. They both provide a significant (and vitals, during lockdown) amount of dopamine to humanity. But they are not eroticism, just content, hours of interchangeable images streamed and manufactured to provoke user’s chemical response. This lack of eroticism is mainly due to the industrialization process that prevents any above-the-average qualities that seem, to me, essential for the birth of eroticism. Eroticism being (at least to me) a significant component of an intellectual life, I come out with this problematic : where can we encounter eroticism in the descincarned era of Netflix Romances and Pornhub videos?

I will first pick the George Bataille definition of eroticism, in Literature And Evil : Erotism is what exists outside the realm of arithmetics, that doesn’t assure its own duration. Better, that goes against it : a childish exaltation of passion that implies the tragic end to the story.

This pattern can be found in numerous novels and movies : Nine 1/2 Weeks (1986) by Adrian Lyne, Bitter Moon (1992) by Roman Polanski, Titanic (1997) by James Cameron, Romeo+Juliette (1996) by Gregg Pearse. But suddenly this pattern has disappeared. The last movies (and piece of art) I was able to link to this pattern were Match Point (2005) and Marie Antoinette (2006). Facebook became open to the public a year later.

But the pattern reappeared in a very different domain, 10 years after, known as the soundcloud’s rappers : Lil peep (dead in 2017),  XXXTentacion (dead in 2018), 6ix9ine (imprisoned in 2018) Juicy WRLD (dead in 2019). They built their following themselve via new social media platforms, got face tattoos, lived the fast life and died as a teenage French poet. Their end was implied by the intensity of their small career ( > to 5 years). On the “girl” side there is Bhad Bhabie. Bhad Bhabie was an outrageous teenager discovered on a TV show. In 2021, for her eighteenth birthday she opened an only fan account and made $1M in 6 hours. Right now she has more than 600k followers on Twitter, when The New York Times has only 15k followers.

None of them was explicitly a porn performer and most were not especially gifted for their primary activity (Rap). Their core value and downfall were their outrageous social media feeds. In the case of 6xi9ine, his Instagram was even show-up as incriminating evidence in two different trials. Also the domain where this new type of eroticism appears is interesting. Rap can be seen as a successor to poetry, not only because of its form (a small text with rhymes), but also by its vector : “Even by its will, poetry cannot build, it destroys” to quote George Bataille.

But are these over-the-top performances mandatory for eroticism, at an age where transgression is cheap? I can get some tattoos on my arms and go to my local gay pride, which can both considerated as unproductive activities (not exactly true, because tattoos are normalized and gay pride is state enforeced in a majority of western countries). But if we go back to Bataille’s definition, eroticism is not just the lack of productivity, but an explicit search for destruction. Yes, I can get kill by going to Olso’s gay pride, but that was not really intended. My destruction by others, without any authentic provocation from my side, cannot be considered as Eroticism. “It’s the difference between the atheist and the black mass priest”, as George Bataille says.

Eroticism implies to bring a minimal amount of destruction to his subject, to opt him out from what is admitted as regular adulthood and monetary arithmetics. His subject needs to risk, if not to bring, cancellation to himself. In the NFT world, the perfect example would be the Milady collection, whose creator, Charlotte Fang, has intently created false rumours about grooming and neo-nazi behaviour. A pure nihilistic performance that goes against any will of economic growth. A sacrifice of value as proof of art, in a milieu dominated by gringe apes and zombie formalism.

Internet social networks play a central role in this new form of eroticism. But these Silicon Valley harbours are not just a bunch of people banging together. They are propelled by algorithms. What are social networks algorithms designed for? They are designed to cluster people together, to amplify human to human interactions using the dopamine reward mechanisms, and eventually to bring profit to their host. They are capitalistic tools, exploiting humans that submit to them. But when early capitalism’s factories described by Marx were just about consuming human flesh, these late capitalism tools seem to exaggeratedly encourage their subject in a passionate self-destruction. Outside the realm of eroticism, the adventure of Donald Trump and his Twitter Anime hordes, was the perfect illustration of this dynamic : they were gathered together and encouraged to play the game of Twitter’s permadeath, powered by social algorithms and dopamine heights.

I will make a bet : This hyper-capitalistic layer is here to take away most of productivity and will for the duration from humans (we can even question if algorithms are really committed to the duration of their Silicon Valley hosts and not rather to their own duration), to let us focus on our own eroticism or at least, self-destruction. And when you think about it, destruction has barely begun. Most of the examples I showed-up in this essay are foreign to Web 3.0. The year 2032 will probably see the rise of a new breed of rappers, powered by crypto-money incentives and minting their crime/performance/clip on uncensorable blockchains.

In conclusion, eroticism is not dead. With the rise of social media and algorithm powered late capitalism, it has transmuted, in the very same way that art has been destroyed and then rebuilt by the apparition of photography. So, here is my advice to you, man or woman of the future : go outside to get your face tattoos. Use your crypto-portfolio to fund a CRISPR lab specialised in genetically modified weed. Mint your sex-slave’s contract on blockchain. Get involved with gang members and call-out the feds on your instagram account. Show-out your plastikov. Finish your home-made nuclear reactor. Become HYPER-EROTIC.

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