Philosophy Kitchen (Mar 2022)

Beauty and Possession. Reversible Eros

  • Floriana Ferro

Journal volume & issue
no. 16

Abstract

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The paper aims at connecting the concepts of beauty and possession, traditionally coupled with the male gaze, with eros as felt by women, by homosexuals, and by those who do not identify with a defined gender (transgender, intersexual, and other non-binary people). First, I will outline the concepts of beauty and possession according to “male thinking”, well formulated by Freud, Plato, Levinas, and Sartre. I will show that, in Western tradition, beauty is seen from a masculine perspective, as a set of charms arousing the subject and stimulating his will to possess. The erotic relationship is consequently considered in a dualistic way: the subject is masculine and active, and desires his “object”, who can be either a man or a woman. However, the mentioned authors also highlight a crucial point: desire is doomed to be unfulfilled, because the transcendence of the other person is ungraspable. I will argue that, despite the latter point, such authors bring forward a reductionist view of eros and relationships between genders. I will suggest a solution to this reductionism, taking inspiration from the concepts of gender performativity, theorized by Butler, and queer orientation, developed by Ahmed. I will also propose to rely on Merleau-Ponty’s idea of the flesh, especially as it concerns its features of reversibility and divergence, in order to give account of every gender identity, including non-binary ones. The concepts of beauty and possession, together with the impossibility to grasp the transcendence of the other person, will not be rejected, but reconfigured through a different way of conceiving subjectivity.