You have to play a role. Yes: a role. There’s no such thing as nature, no natural state, no eternal verity of the human heart. Every social interaction presupposes a scene, lines of dialogue, a cast list, strategies of dissimulation, to a lesser or greater degree. You can keep the fact that you’re a pervert to yourself, or the fact that you are sad, but it’s the same thing, we work with the factitious - that’s just the way it is - it’s neither good nor bad, it’s fundamentally, unavoidably inherent to the fact that man is a social animal. If a human being were all alone in a cave, then in that case yes, they would be authentically themselves, but it would be meaningless, completely meaningless, as no one would be there to see them, nor indeed to bear witness, and furthermore they would die on the ground, like a forgotten weed, not of thirst, but of boredom, torn apart by the infinite absurdity of nothingness because a human being without other beings to see them
is nothing. They don’t exist; they’re an aberration.
That’s why you have to play a role. You have to accept it, you have to play with it, with the idea that you are playing a role.
Take this guy, here. His sexuality is pretty vanilla - some affairs, “histoirettes” Tallemant des Réaux would have called them - some of which are quickly forgotten, while others leave their mark, but none would justify more than a 20-minute tangent in a conversation with friends. What he’s gone through, everybody's already been through and millions of people will go through it after him, there’s no need to discourse about it, we get it, we’re not going to go on about the fact that people eat three square meals a day. Our intimate experiences are often interchangeable with other people’s - it’s depressing but that’s also why literature, astrology and psychoanalysis can exist.
Ok - so this guy. We’ll call him Baruch (because it’s Spinoza’s first name and not many people know it - it’s often said that Spinoza, like Madonna or Drake, is a mononym, well no – it’s actually Baruch Spinoza). One day Baruch meets someone on a dating app. That someone – he’s not vanilla. He’s into role-play. He asks him explicitly, it’s not an anthropological unsaid – he says, I’m looking for a master.
Okay, okay, says Baruch, why not. Baruch is not at all a master. Nor is he a slave. He lives in the in-between: he is buffeted by events, but occasionally he has the impression that he is making a decision. He controls little bits of his life. But he doesn’t control anyone. That’s new, that excites him.
When he meets his slave for the first time, Baruch is stressed. Blood rushes to his head, his limbs go weak. While he is climbing the stairs that are going to lead him to his host’s flat, he imagines what is about to happen, and prepares himself to play his new role: he has to deepen his voice, give orders, make his gestures more brusque. He has to exaggerate everything, his whole being has to enlarge, to undergo a metamorphosis to impose on the other. As soon as he has crossed the threshold pushing the half-open door, his stress vanishes like an ice cube in hot weather. He already feels bigger, as if his body had developed, as if he had tacked on muscle. His aura invades the room - he dominates it much as he will dominate his slave. The latter is on his knees with his head lowered, waiting for his orders. What happens here isn’t, strictly speaking, about sexuality, but something far greater than that, it’s the civilisational climax of sexuality and for that matter, there’s no sexuality per se at all. From a purely descriptive point of view, there’s no intercourse, there’s no penetration, nothing. Everything operates on the mental level. Orgasm is purely cerebral - it resides in a dynamic of domination, but one that is overplayed, caricatured, pushed to the extreme.
The slave had prepared a scenario - he had sent it in advance - he’d scripted his own alienation. Baruch had to see it through. Humiliate him, insult him, walk him around a chair, make him drink out of a steel bowl like a dog. He wasn’t allowed to touch him. Bodies had disappeared - there was only speech left.
Baruch feels that he did quite well. He followed the script, but he brought to it a certain tone, he barked orders at his pet.
He found hurtful words, you look like a cockroach, haha. The slave had obeyed, he’d scuttled into a corner - afraid - as planned.
When he leaves the apartment Baruch feels powerful but he can’t help but imagine what is going on now the door is closed once more. His slave stands up, brushes off his shoulders, and resumes his normal life: he calls his mother, or maybe catches up with work. That drives him crazy. That being said, Baruch also changes instantly - he goes back home, has a drink with friends, and doesn't tell anyone that he ordered a person to behave like a serf.
The next few times, he gains in assurance, he makes the games more sophisticated, compels his minion to watch a horror film whilst bound to a chair; one of those films in which the girl screams blue murder in a close up, except that the sound is off, which intensifies the horror of the work. This wasn’t in any script, but his slave went along with it. He’s bowled over by the audacity of his master. Meanwhile Baruch smokes by the window and from time to time turns around to look at his toy, absorbed in the film, eyes wide open in front of the screen on which colours dance in the darkened room.
Over time, Baruch’s desire increases but his inspiration dwindles. When he visits his slave, the stress returns. He doesn't know what to make him do any more. In truth, he’s scared that his thing is wearying of him and detaching from him. Establishing psychological domination is so demanding, you can never let your guard down and you have to constantly feed a sick brain which needs an abnormal level of stimulation. One could say he experiences a Hegelian sensation - he understands this fucking master-slave dialectic, cos after all, who does have the power? Eh? Who’s the one in control here? Who’s the insecure one? It’s not the other one - it’s Baruch.
One evening when Baruch wants to go to his slave’s place, he’s not answering. Baruch insists, hurls insults at him, half sincere, half acting. The other takes a whole week to respond. It’s not working any more between us, he says. I found you weak. You lost that emphatic quality. Your emphatic quality. Baruch feels like he’s being treated as both a bad actor and a pathetic has-been. Or worse, like he’s become that friend that you like because he’s funny but he’s run out of jokes.
But what you have to bear in mind is that he was dumped by his slave. Because he couldn’t keep up his performance.