Jouissance Précoce: “the queer temporality of jouissance”

This story requires a warning if the portrayal of adolescent sexuality offends you. There is no intentional adult participation, but hey, some people are hell bent on insisting, against all evidence to the contrary, that we emerge as fully realized sexual beings at the age of 18.

“What stands in the way of our recognizing dysfunctions as jouissance is our tendency to be deluded by “the image” of jouissance.” (J.Gallop. “Precocious Jouissance: Roland Barthes, Amatory Maladjustment, and Emotion“)

needleI sat up amid the swaddles of bedding in the berth and rolled up the sleeve of my white cotton nightdress with the same tangle of fear and anticipation that all children and many adults have about injections. Hating the idea of having a piece of metal stuck in your arm, and yet bearing the pathetic, hopeful illusions that the medicine will make you feel instantly better. I had been violently seasick for days. So desperate to be relieved of the never-ending nausea, the needle looked wholly benevolent. Even when the doctor slid it into the vial and drew out the clear liquid. Even when he squirted a little of it out again to clear the air bubbles. Even when he laid it, with a plink, onto the metal tray and tore open the little foil package and took out the neat square of sterile swab. It smelled of promise.

To my thirteen-year old eyes, the ship’s doctor was a god. He was austere and handsome and uniformed. He’d entered the cabin, requisite stethoscope dangling from his neck, and carried the sort of bag born by doctors in films from the 1950s.

In response to my bared, proffered shoulder, he tilted his head and gave me a consolatory smile. “No, I’m afraid this one goes in the top of your hip. Please lie down on your side and face the wall.”

Perhaps I wouldn’t have been struck dumb in horror had he been an uglier man, or wearing a white coat, or if I had been in a doctor’s office, or if I had had the foresight to wear panties under my nightie but, being young and lacking all sense of proportion, I was.

“Go on, lie down,” he prompted.

Heart racing and my stomach knotting, I slid back down into the berth, rolled on my side, and stared at the mute, semi-gloss bulkhead.

“Good girl.”

He pulled the covers back with what I imagined was utter dispassion, although I couldn’t see him do it. Trapped in a slow, stately ritual of monstrous humiliation, I lay frozen, unbreathing as he drew up the hem of my nightgown with embroidered strawberries on it. I felt his hand on my thigh, warm as took the fabric with it, baring me in a terrible unhurriedness. Up over my hip. The coolness of the air my only measure of exactly how ashamedly naked I was beneath the nightie.

In fairness to the doctor, he was probably doing all of this with as much efficient speed as possible in consideration of the 300 other upchucking passengers he had yet to see, but to me, stars were born exploded and became red dwarfs over the course of my modesty’s total anihilation.

“Now,” he said, swabbing the target area with the chill alcohol swab, “You’re going to feel a pinch. Just a little one.”

It was the faceless voice, bored and cold and topped with a veneer of superficial optimism, which would, in later years, send my thigh muscles into clenched quivers. It was the admonition to lie completely still please that would bring the blood to my chest and cheeks, and turn my nipples into hard little beads of need. But, most of all, it was the fraction of a second in which the needle pressed into flesh, but had not yet breached skin, that would forever remain the faithful source of my most productive masturbatory fantasy.

There, in that silent, rolling room, blinded by a vista of plain white wall, still as a corpse, I felt the needle slip into my flesh and, even before I felt the chill liquid seep into my body, I gasped, pressed my balled fists between my legs, and shuddered through the most titanic orgasm of my young life. I twitched, gasped once more, and felt the sting of embedded needle. My body shook and my cunt spasmed with a violence that obliterated the needle’s sting.

The doctor said nothing. I said nothing. He withdrew the needle, drew my nightgown down over my nakedness and pulled the up the bedclothes.

I was still staring at the white wall when I heard the cabin door close gently.

(on re-reading The Pleasure of the Text by Roland Barthes and Jane Gallop’s masterful “Precocious Jouissance: Roland Barthes, Amatory Maladjustment, and Emotion”, New Literary History 43.3 (2012): 565-582 )

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