This post originally appeared on I Read Odd Books
Book: Perversity Think Tank
Type of Book: Non-fiction, human sexuality, pornography, psychology, philosophy
Why Do I Consider This Book Odd: This tiny book’s arrangement is in itself odd, with a scholarly discussion running across the top of the pages, a more personal narration running across the bottom, and large, black squares over all the pictures. Then there’s the content…
Availability: Published by Supervert in 2010, you can get a copy here:
Comments: I have a pretty serious book crush on Supervert. Every now and then you come across an author who seems very much like he or she is on your wavelength, whose words seem like they could have come out of your own brain. Supervert is one of those authors for me. I felt a great amount of kinship reading a few of the stories in Necrophilia Variations (and yeah, when you say that, when you admit a book with this particular title spoke to you directly, you are making a certain statement about yourself and now that I am officially a harmless, middle-aged woman, I feel I am safe making any sort of admission I want). I found myself nodding a lot when reading Perversity Think Tank as the book tried to answer the question of “What is Perversity?”
If I didn’t know this before reading the book, I now understand that defining perversity can be very much akin to holding mercury but Supervert manages to nail down some interesting perspectives on the topic. Mostly, I walked away knowing what perversity isn’t, while marveling that there is another human being on the planet who had thought about the complete narcissism that is involved in reproductive incest, which I will discuss in a moment.
Supervert has a unique insight into perversion. He ran the site PervScan, wherein he scoured news for anything with a hint of sexual deviance to it. While this book was inspired by the musings that the PervScan articles inspired, this is not a compilation of the site’s “greatest hits” though a couple of cases are referenced in the book. Rather, the book uses a couple of cases to ponder what comprises perversion and what does not. Interestingly, compiling all those stories of strange acts showed Supervert that most of the acts he cataloged were not true perversion.
Many of the acts I covered on PervScan – like the three middle-aged brothers who sexually assaulted their bedridden mother while she lay suffering amid lice, roaches, and fecal matter – struck me less as perverse than as ignorant, heedless, cruel. There were days when I thought my compendium of deviant doings was nothing more than a catalogue of errors in judgement and lapses in common sense.
This was an incredibly important point to me because despite my own self-admitted sympathy for the devil as well as an abiding interest in the bizarre and perverted, even I find myself defining any deviation from the norm, up to and including the worst sexual crimes, as perversion when really what was at work was psychopathy or a sub-normal intellect.
Moreover, as Supervert read more and more examples of sexual oddity, that which had seemed somewhat perverted before now seemed somewhat tame.
After you’ve read about a guy who wants to eat his own penis, you feel like you’ve pretty much heard it all. How could mere exhibitionism seem perverted in comparison to a man who wants to fry his genitalia in a pan?
I know, this isn’t the most profound of statements, but it struck me that I don’t know another single person in real life who speculates on such things, who has, in fact, heard it all to the point that little shocks them and the outre seems positively normal and comforting. I often feel as if my interest in perversion is a perversion in and of itself. I wish I knew more people who know the ins and outs of the Armin Meiwes case or all the details about Sharon Lopatka because it would make me happy to know other suburbanites with gray hair and festive glasses and a love of kittens wouldn’t throw me out of their houses if they knew what goes into and on in my head.
Supervert discusses all the various meanings of perversion. He discusses one of the first philosophical interpretations of perversion, an easy conclusion that many have reached before – that sexual perversion is any act that thwarts reproduction. Easy enough but it means that a married couple who have sex after the wife has experienced menopause are therefore perverts and so that really doesn’t fit. Additionally, Supervert brings up Sade, who wrote in The 120 Days of Sodom about a libertine who wanted to masturbate and ejaculate on the crowning head of an infant as it was born. This perversion can only happen because of human reproduction so really, in a sense, this shows the complete creativity involved in true perversion and how useless most definitions of perversion can be. Freud defined perversity as any sex act that diverted the focus of sex from the sex organs. Sort of limiting and pretty much results in everyone who has ever done anything sexual with their hands or mouths in the bedroom in being labeled a pervert and the more the merrier, right? But sweeping generalizations like these do no one any good in understanding the true nature of perversion.
The book brings up all the usual suspects like Sade but then it also discusses those whose opinions on sex are suspect at best and therefore were hilarious to me. The sad, misogynistic, sexually inept Schopenhauer makes an appearance, to my delight. Evidently, he had a foot in a pre-Freud camp that indicated that perversion was anything not involving sex organs because it ensured that those who had bad genes that made them perverts could not reproduce and pass on their defects. Which makes my lack of children somewhat interesting but then again, as Supervert reminds us, Sade had three children. Oh lord, I hate Schopenhauer. His ideas of failsex can only inspire derision in me, his very name makes me groan, and mileage, of course, always varies, but I rather enjoyed the times in this book when I felt provoked.
It was during the discussion on incest that my book crush on Supervert was confirmed. The first part was obvious, but nothing that I had ever really considered. Supervert discusses the perversion in incest and comes to an interesting conclusion. The inbred yokel who has sex with his daughter is likely not doing it in order to violate the taboo of inter-familial sex. Rather, he is doing it because she is likely the only available girl. It is an act of availability that while repellent, is not all that perverse. It is a far different thing for a father to desire his daughter because she is his daughter, or a mother to desire her son because he is her son. A key part of perversion, as far as Supervert is concerned, is consideration for the act itself and not just the easy, sloppy depravity that makes a person simply have sex with whomever or whatever is closest.
But here’s the thing that surprised me anyone else had considered (and secretly thrilled me because when one entertains dark and perverted thoughts, one never thinks anyone else would even in a million years think the same thing): the narcissism present in deliberate incest.
A libertine doesn’t molest his daughter because she just happens to be there. A libertine molests his daughter because he consciously wants to create a being who is both his child and his grandchild – and still a future sex object itself. Then he molests that daughter/granddaughter hybrid to obtain another new being who is child, grandchild, great grandchild – and still sex object.
Once you get to a certain point in this process, the end result is an appalling creation that is more or less masturbation by proxy.
The incestuous libertine approaches ever closer to a reproductive act whose result is a child 100% himself, and yet that ultimate point is always deferred by increasingly small percentages. The libertine can never quite dispense with the shred of genetic material that belongs to the maternal line, and yet the fact remains that, by fucking the offspring of his own offspring, he is inevitably fucking more and more of himself.
It is this awareness of the act and the results that is quite important when considering perversion:
And that, as Sade recognized, is one of the most striking characteristics of perversity: it is deliberate, self-conscious, pellucid. Its hallmark is… its intentionality… The libertine is able to reflect on his unwholesome activities. Self-awareness makes his pleasures all the greater.
Though Supervert discusses much, much more than these conclusions in the book, I think this is quite important and possibly the greatest revelation in this book for me. Too often people with dire sexual compulsions are labeled perverts, people with little control over their acts or those governed by a need that is innate and defies any sort of consciousness. Perversion, as a philosophical approach to depravity, requires far more than a compulsive need or a thoughtless action.
The only part of this book that I found the least bit disagreeable was Supervert’s passage about how rape could possibly be a part of the evolutionary process.
Evolutionary biologists have pointed out that natural selection provides an obvious impetus for it, insofar as rape improves the rapist’s chances for reproductive success. That my friend was raped in Central Park was symbolic: in the greatest swath of grass and trees in New York, she was subject to the Darwinism of her attackers.
Back when I first heard this particular line of thinking many years ago in an anthropology class in college, I was skeptical. Even 100,000 years ago, didn’t women understand the causality between sex and pregnancy even if they did not understand the exact mechanism? Raped women often don’t look kindly on the offspring of rape. If they couldn’t abort, those children were likely abandoned or exposed, or were raised less kindly. The men in societies where their spouses were subject to rape would also have reacted poorly. The rapists were likely subject to physical violence that made them rethink any impulse for rape, if they survived the violence. Or they would get kicked out of the tribe they lived in and would have had a far harder time at surviving at all. If there was ever a genetic code for rape to ensure one’s genetic material lived on, it likely got killed off when the offspring of such unions were subject to abortion, abandonment or resentful care and the men themselves violently neutralized before they could spread very much seed at all. Even if women only became aware of how pregnancy happened during recorded history, I would think that societal reactions to rape would still be enough to wipe out any gene that causes rape within a dozen or so generations. Or that was my knee jerk reaction. It seems there are some who know quite a bit of evolutionary psychology who agree. But regardless of which side is correct, is interesting to me, analyzing what about our sexual natures, dark and not-so-dark, can be seen as innate or learned, or just the result of a bad brain.
Supervert’s book is full of enlightened explanations of the philosophy and reasoning behind some sex acts even I can look at and call bizarre, or perverted, and at times, the best parts of the book were his discourses on the blacked-out images. These images were varied and covered a lot of ground. Like men who like to ejaculate into a woman’s eye. Like a pornographer who wanted to make a skin flick out of a woman giving birth. Like an almost touching picture of a couple on a bed, the man smoking, the woman lying on her side, staring at the man. Like the solipsistic nature of POV porn. Like his reaction to a simple painting and how this painting shows clearly how alone the pervert is in his or her own mind. Like a piece of art that provokes thoughts as to whether or not autoerotic asphyxiation is a perveme (he discusses pervemes in the book – perversion memes). Like a bestiality film clip that proved there is indeed a noise that can inspire disgust. Yeah, I think I most enjoyed Supervert’s reactions to the art he deliberately blocks out of the book.
This book isn’t for everyone but if you are a fellow traveler on certain roads, you will want to get this book. If you do read it or have already read it, I’d love to know how you read it. I read the “top half” from beginning to end, then read the “bottom half.” I paused during the bottom half to read the descriptions that accompanied the blacked-out pictures. I read the book in this manner twice, then looked up the pictures (or as many as were available online) and reread the descriptions. For a small, straightforward book, it requires a lot of attention. While definitely salacious enough to inspire prurient thoughts in those who are simply in this for the titillation, the book is not technically pornography, because the goal is to inspire interaction and thought rather than sexual arousal. In fact, the way the book is set up demands interaction and close attention and is a book I will probably reread again soon. And though I am unsure if the book available on Amazon has the same brown dust jacket as the copy I have, even without it this book is quite lovely. Books as small works of art are rare these days.
(And in the name of all that is sane, of course I don’t advocate incest, pedophilia, bestiality or any non-consensual sex act. It horrifies me that in the course of merely reviewing a philosophical discussion of perversity I have to make this point clear, but perverse thoughts do not equal advocacy nor do they indicate an unsound mind. Any comment along the line of OMG GROCE or a juvenile assertion that exploring these issues is a de facto advocacy of harmful acts will not get deleted because I will be forced to mock such comments because I am weary, oh lord am I weary. )