I’ve been thinking a lot about Hysteria as Orgasm. The ways in which we bring ourselves, or are brought in response to systemic marginalization, to this extreme climax. Screaming, shouting, laughing, shaking, quaking, quivering. In anger, rage, pleasure, pain. We scream as we march in protests, shake all night at a club, laugh to keep from crying, fuck, sweat. Avital Ronell explains that we must mobilize hysteria as a revolutionary force, “hysteria as a response to what is unacceptable and intolerable in life… as a response to emergency.” We experience individual and/or collective catharsis as we bring our conscious or unconscious desires to the surface. We are in hysteria. We are resisting. We reach our peak of what is unbearable, what we can no longer handle and the body responds in ways, which are often seen as obscene.
How long can this build up of repression sustain itself for? Orgasm cannot sustain itself, it is so extreme in its experience because of its ephemerality. Hysteria cannot last forever. Hysteria as embodied resistance is not a sustainable approach. But it is my approach. The very essence of hysteria and orgasm are their immediacy. The feeling that if, at that very second, you do not let the thing that needs to happen come to full fruition, you will explode. Explode with rage, pleasure, desire, or pain. The experience requires an excessive overflowing of feelings, physical actions, and bodily fluids; letting it all flow freely through the body to find a release. If you look at history, politics, or recent social movements, there is a similar build up of a momentum until it reaches it’s climax and finally explodes.
It is not a coincidence that hysteria and sexuality have been linked throughout history. From Ancient Greece, to Mid-evil times, to Charcot, to Freud. The word, hyster, Greek word for uterus, is evidence that at its very core, hysteria as a social construct is rooted in the need to exert control over the female body. The need to pathologize female pleasure, sexuality, and emotional expressivity throughout history has bled into more modern notions of toxic masculinity, the gender binary, and views on femininity
Is it possible to live in a state of constant orgasm and hysteria? To live in the excessive pleasure and release? Or can they only exist in relation to the repression which leads to them? This, I do not know. I do think that on a micro level, allowing the experience of repressed anger, desire, and rage to flow through the body, mobilizing their climax as a form of rebellion and guerrilla tactic is a start. As Martin Hargreaves says:
The hysterical symptom does not carry this meaning with it, but the meaning is lent to it, soldered to it, as it were; and in every instance the meaning can be a different one, according to the nature of the suppressed thoughts which are struggling for expression.
When you abstract the physical symptoms from their emotional and historical contexts they do not mean anything on their own. Shaking is just shaking. Nothing more, nothing less. But when shaking becomes the vehicle for allowing rage to be expressed through the body, something which is begging for a way out, it becomes more than just shaking. It becomes a release, a physical manifestation of the rage which has been building and kept stagnant in the fascia of our body.
There are many things to be angry about right now. I often have the urge to scream. I am often very fucking angry. Or very fucking anxious. Or very full of desire. I wonder what would happen if I screamed whenever I had the urge to. If everyone did. To throw ones body around quivering and quaking, flailing about until the urge dissipates. To be in our bodies without control. Control of ourselves, our own suppression, our desire to appear stable and chill. Control by others, the desire from those in power to maintain social order. We are always seeking control.
Orgasm can only come from relinquishing control. Allowing your body to live in the ecstasy of fully giving yourself over to the intoxicating experience. In my own research, hysteria can be best used in this way. As a form of physical resistance to the social order and norms which have historically and systemically been placed onto our bodies and existence. I wish for everyone the gift of fully living in the ecstasy of their own bodies without control, if only for that minute of orgasmic hysterical release, bringing all of the repressed desires, urges, and rage to the surface through the physical form of hysteria. To live in this utopian state of heightened expressivity and physical release.