Becoming Vulva: Flesh, Fold, Infinity

Article excerpt

Patriarchal and psychoanalytic discourses have oriented the dissemination of privilege and power which facilitates the dominance of male subjects, not through selection of those particular subjects but through the systems which structure society and ideology. These abstract systems default to valuing certain 'masculine' qualities and foreclose the possibility of the recognition of true difference by describing alterity only as different from. Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari see the male subject as the most in need of deconstruction in order to facilitate the mobilisation of ethics. Luce Irigaray describes the masculine structuration of society as phallologocentric, where knowledge and power are oriented around such qualities inherent in masculinity, such as singularity, solidity, visual total apprehension and transcendental signification. Deleuze, Guattari and Irigaray have all offered alternatives--Deleuze and Guattari call to the becoming-woman of dominant subjects, Irigaray describes the model of the two lips which exchanges the symbolic phallus for a feminine-genital model. In this article I will offer another model which negotiates the traditional antagonism between these two theoretical suggestions. Using Deleuze's work on 'the fold', I will posit 'becoming-vulva'. The vulva mediates the feminine-genital elements of Irigaray's two lips with Deleuze's structure of the fold to become a relationship between disparate perspectives and elements. Becoming-vulva is available to all subjects while resisting the vaguely essentialising fetishisation of the term 'woman'. As a metamorphic and volatile structure becoming-vulva is necessarily experimental and thus this article will attempt to offer entrance points into other forms of becoming without demanding a prescriptive technique.

Anatomically defined, the vulva is the visible external female genitalia. By external what is meant is all that isn't within the pelvis, so the vaginal aperture is included. Divergent from psychoanalysis and classical sculpture, external female vulva is visible only through exploration. It is two sets of lips, clitoris, vagina, anus, g-spot and apocryphal elements. It is the spreading out and convergence of labia. It is the unity of the clitoris and its concealment of the urethra, a single organ as palimpsest. The vaginal 'aperture' is a volitional hole, both penetrable and ingurgitant. The general perinea, the indiscernibility between what constitutes the vulva (not the thigh, not the belly) and what constitutes the surrounds (not vulva) and the internal aspect of the vulva, which reflects the infinite potential found in the exploration of all internality (seen in such activities as speculum sex, fisting, and douche and enema play among other things) offer an organ far removed materially and conceptually from the hypostasis of the phallus. Being as a body is a formalisation of flesh into smaller forms which have function and signification: head as seat of logic, face as signifying plane of subjectivity, race, age, genitals as signifier of gender and possible sexuality and sexual configurations in relation with other subjects. The vulva is informal both as a non-reified biological form and as a mode of expression. Becoming investigates and exploits the relations between forces of subjugation and seeks tactics to reorient strata of desire--how does a vulva desire differently to a phallus or a vagina or clitoris within phallic paradigms? Vulvas are materially formed of multiple folds of flesh. The body becoming-vulva is involuted and undone, creating what Deleuze in Difference and Repetition calls a larval sexuality--immature and transformed at every synthesis, which acts not toward a thing but toward its metamorphosis, toward encountering the self which is sensed but not wholly perceived, toward the imperceptibility within repetition where all elements within syntheses are dissipated, disoriented and reoriented with each turn, each folding and each alteration in the aspects of involution. …