18.6.10

Dangerous Liaisons

War and Sex

Dangerous Liaisons
by Farzana Versey
Counterpunch, June 18-20


Anri Suzuki wants to use her body to cure historical wrongs. She is not a card-holding pacifist but a history teacher and porn artiste who has offered to have sex with Chinese students at her college in Tokyo to make amends for the shameful Japanese invasion of China in 1937.

Is it time to get cynical and brand her an attention-seeker, part of the fake empathy industry that has sprouted everywhere? We might also see it as a way of furthering her career, both her careers. However, the body as war booty has been an accepted norm. Instances of women raped or otherwise humiliated dot the backdrop of battlegrounds. Objectifying women has always been part of any war-like scenario, and victories and defeats are measured partly by such abuse of the female as property of man. The colonisation of lands has to do with the subjugation of the nurturing earth as mother or mother figure. It works as marking of territory.

Suzuki appears to be employing the invasion metaphor, but as a woman. She, at 24, and the students are far removed from the Sino-Japanese War. She said: “We have to respect the lessons of history and although we cannot obliterate it we can try and make recompense. I want to cure the wounds of China with my body, and I offer to do this by having sex with Chinese students in Japan.”

It is a manner of using the conquest paradigm to turn the tables. Had she gone about her job without mentioning “symbolic compensation”, it would merely be about sexuality, perhaps with an additional title of “Madonna of St. Clitoris” that was used for Anais Nin in quite a different context. This is beyond the sexual; it is aggression.

Prisoners in detention camps, abuse of civilians by security forces or civilians by militants, exploitation within the armed forces are symbolic too, for they express supremacy. After the 1984 anti-Sikh riots following the assassination of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi by her security guards, war widows were sometimes forced by their families to marry their brothers-in-law or cousins even if they were several years younger. The reason was to make certain that the compensation money remained within the family.

The comfort women of World War II were nothing but sex slaves and most were recruited from Korea, although there were several Chinese. It is probably the worst instance of such criminal brutalisation of women, for once they had passed their prime they were discarded. The slavery was partly dominance and partly a defence mechanism. There was a fear of spies being planted, a known strategy.

During the American Civil War prostitutes were used to spread diseases among opposing troops. One might question such assertions beyond the obvious connotation of male self-defence. The prostitutes had no control over their finances, their emotions, their sense of belonging and also their diseased bodies.

The female form is a landscape and even Draupadi in the epic Mahabharata was lost in a game of dice.

Women in dominating positions have not been spared and their masculinisation is an induced process to increase the male army and the male ideology. Suzuki is operating alone – for now. There is a semblance of covert similarity with the Indian dacoit Phoolan Devi, made famous in the film ‘Bandit Queen’. Her post-banditry legitimisation was announced with a good deal of fanfare by the establishment that had triumphed over her with her surrender.

There was a process of osmosis here. We were being sucked into her transformation as a theatrical taming of the shrew unfolded before us. She played the role to the hilt, losing her freedom to the next scoop that would tell her exactly what she was and where she belonged. Was she exorcising the demons from her system or merely pampering her vanity? The cocktail authenticity of her life helped create a vacuum to accommodate enough hype.

It was almost pornographic when in the manner of her sexual abuse in the ravines she expected a media lust to follow her every move. She was trapped between caricature and schizophrenia.

For one so tormented by men, she had been completely appropriated by them, usurped by their fantasies. Whether it was to become uninhibited or a caged animal for knights-turned-tormentors, her independence was being effectively whittled down.

Suzuki’s stance may appear proactive, with her as initiator. If we read it in the context of underlying sexual invasion in the garb of healing, then it works only at the level, and to the extent, of an orgasm.

On the flip side, her ‘humanisation’ has an almost cartoon-strip like quality. She is a finished product available to men. There are titters about her concern, and it is not unusual to expect them. The scars she wishes to heal have been forgotten. By sexualising history, she is in fact reasserting that both warfare and wounds are part of the sado-masochistic credo.

15 comments:

  1. Ms. Suzuki is also making the symbolic point that using violence as retribution for past wrongs between the ancestors of the currently living. A Truth and Reconciliation "meeting" between China and Japan is about the only thing that make set things straight, but that won't happen as long as China is a communist dictatorship.

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  2. Correction: should read:-

    ".....currently living, does not make sense."

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  3. Al:

    It is an interesting thought, but I have addressed the sexual aggression inherent, as also the aggressiveness of the pacifist agenda. (And you should agree with that!)

    It is not what Suzuki has agreed to do but why that is worth examining.

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  4. Completely agree with you about sex being an act of violence/aggression in the viewpoint of Ms. Suzuki...else there was no need for her to bring in sex as repentance for real violence committed for material gain during colonialism.

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  5. I think "agressive" is about right, Farzana. Certainly Suzuki's proposed treatment for the "Rape of Nanking" virtually invites censure -- at the very least, according to whatever code her school's authorities might want to employ. I can't see professors employed at any Tokyo college mistaking that. That she should risk her livelihood in such a manner (quite literally risque, lol) then, to me, is compelling -- if only in the sense of inviting more questions, a number of which you've undertaken above. :)

    I would only make obvious what you seem to allude to, that she also expresses herself in pornography may undercut a, perhaps, necessary perception of disinterest on her part in her chosen methodology, save that the historical lesson of Nanking be effectively learned and maintained for posterity. That she yet does not sort of "recuse" herself professionally, to me, suggests one of two things: 1) she's solely doing it for kicks ("orgasmic," certainly, whether literally or figuratively, as in parleying the notoriety into $$$), or, 2) she considers her read on that horrific episode from her country's history, i.e. the lesson she got at a former generation's quite high cost no less than demands that she employ the "aggressive" method she has chosen (that it may or may not be literally orgasmic in this instance strikes me as then being irrelevant).

    While I can think of at least one plausible scenario for Ms. Suzuki's aggressive approach (from cultural or national pressures than anything else, as I see it), the expression "symbolic compensation" raises yet another question, this time respecting symbols generally: Did Joan of Arc, for example, set out to become a symbol? I think Jackie Chan's "The Myth" also asks this question, but in a different context.

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  6. Mstaab:

    Is she risking (risqué, nice pun you use!) her livelihood? It might help in her porn career and, furthermore, due to her expressed historically twisted sympathy it might even endear her to the college authorities; it works better than diplomats and politicians, with huge egos, doing so.

    That she yet does not sort of "recuse" herself professionally, to me, suggests one of two things: 1) she's solely doing it for kicks ("orgasmic," certainly, whether literally or figuratively, as in parleying the notoriety into $$$), or, 2) she considers her read on that horrific episode from her country's history

    1.True.
    2. This is how I symbolically see it. The interpretations of current positions taken regarding history become that much more important.

    While I can think of at least one plausible scenario for Ms. Suzuki's aggressive approach (from cultural or national pressures than anything else, as I see it), the expression "symbolic compensation" raises yet another question, this time respecting symbols generally: Did Joan of Arc, for example, set out to become a symbol? I think Jackie Chan's "The Myth" also asks this question, but in a different context.

    I plead ignorance about the Jackie Chan film, but wrt Joan of Arc we flip the argument – she was compensated for with symbolism.

    While we are at it, a news report mentions that Helen Mirren is going topless for a photoshoot to promote her new film 'Love Ranch'. Interestingly, she plays a brothel madam. The madam is in command, so her dropping of clothes symbolises the endemic nature of using the body as a revelation of ‘personal history’ and empathy with the girls working for her. It also is symbolic of the commercial interest of the film, the actors, the profession of sex and its hierarchy where madam is reduced to bare essentials.

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  7. RE: Helen Mirren. I saw that. Save that she's an accomplished actor and is oftentimes referred to as "Dame" Mirren, I don't know anything about her. From the article I read, I was given the impression bared breasts was as far as she, personally, was prepared to go for "Love Ranch." Evidently "empathy" (or, perhaps, "symbolic compensation") has its limits. Still, to be fair, Mirren did appear to allow that her own sort of ascension to the heights of her profession was not without its more thorough, sort of "remove, please" moments -- albeit in somewhat more private, perhaps exclusive settings off-camera.

    Be that as it may, your suggestion that Joan of Arc was compensated with symbolism suggests -- to me -- that, for all her labor and comparative achievement, she was thrown a bone, i.e. sainthood, after her betrayal and immolation (akin to molere, to grind or disintegrate) at the hands of the English in 1431. The suggestion being that the French (La Trémoille, et al) were content to employ her talents only insofar that it made Charles (read: his coterie of "advisors") look good -- never mind their own culpability for the straits (or, pehaps, the ditch) France and England found themselves in. This is, of course, nothing new.

    >>The interpretations of current positions taken regarding history become that much more important.<<

    Well, we do hear plaintive cries for something called prudence and/or pragmatics. But this is almost always after the fact and, again, nothing new. I'm also reminded, if you will indulge me a bit of scripture, that "the dog is turned to his own vomit again; and the sow that was washed to her wallowing in the mire." On the other hand, there would seem to be some insistent reference to certain clauses contained in Isaiah, Chapter 56 (see also Mt 19:3-12), as well. So then, yes, as you suggest, current positions taken regarding history may indeed have become that much more important.

    Of course, the next sort of probative question might then be, ". . . 'That much more important' in light of what?" Followed, certainly, by "when?" :)

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  8. RE: Helen Mirren. I saw that. Save that she's an accomplished actor and is oftentimes referred to as "Dame" Mirren, I don't know anything about her. From the article I read, I was given the impression bared breasts was as far as she, personally, was prepared to go for "Love Ranch." Evidently "empathy" (or, perhaps, "symbolic compensation") has its limits. Still, to be fair, Mirren did appear to allow that her own sort of ascension to the heights of her profession was not without its more thorough, sort of "remove, please" moments -- albeit in somewhat more private, perhaps exclusive settings off-camera.

    Empathy sure has its limits, but how much is too much or too little if the body is a belief? Mirren has made unfortunate remarks earlier regarding rape (http://farzana-versey.blogspot.com/2008/11/look-whos-saying-women-ask-for-rape.html) I don’t think she was symbolically conveying an exploitative mode in her own profession; she was using or being used to market a product.

    Re. Joan of Arc, it is our need to prop up those who we see as, and who often are, wronged. It is a manifestation of another kind of power.

    >>The interpretations of current positions taken regarding history become that much more important.<<

    Well, we do hear plaintive cries for something called prudence and/or pragmatics. But this is almost always after the fact and, again, nothing new. I'm also reminded, if you will indulge me a bit of scripture, that "the dog is turned to his own vomit again; and the sow that was washed to her wallowing in the mire." On the other hand, there would seem to be some insistent reference to certain clauses contained in Isaiah, Chapter 56 (see also Mt 19:3-12), as well. So then, yes, as you suggest, current positions taken regarding history may indeed have become that much more important.


    Isn’t that why history repeats itself? Perhaps it is ‘pragmatics’, in that we are given an opportunity to interpret (reinterpret) what is repeated?

    Of course, the next sort of probative question might then be, ". . . 'That much more important' in light of what?" Followed, certainly, by "when?" :)

    The importance lies in ‘adaptation’, and by that I mean it both ways – adapt to and adapt it!

    When? If it is too soon it will be seen as opportunistic and if too late then you miss the bus and take the bullock cart to the ‘next’ history :)

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  9. >>Empathy sure has its limits, but how much is too much or too little if the body is a belief?<<

    "Belief" in what sense? That the body is -- that it exists? Or "belief" in the sense of some perhaps shared perception (or, say, "hope") that it (the body, whether generic or specific) can -- if it really, really wants to -- if appropriately stimulated, perhaps -- overcome certain inherent (or so it might seem) properties specific to it?

    Of course, scripture comes to mind, lol; but I will forebear. :)

    If the former, I'd say little if any empathy is called for, save for whatever acknowledgement, e.g. "I see, hear, smell, taste or feel it," one is capable of. Much as one might see and acknowledge one's own arm, for example, one can see and acknowledge a rock. That the rock exists in terms related to one's sight may be a sufficient acknowledgement; however, a property of one's own existence relative to sight (it may not be true for the rock) is that it is divided into periods of light and darkness. Seeing is a sufficient acknowledgement in daylight; whereas, in the dead of night, seeing is sufficient to identify and thus acknowledge neither the rock nor one's own arm. One may need to resort to whatever other senses one might possess.

    In Gore Verbinski's third installment of the Pirates of the Caribbean series, At World's End, the protagonist, Captain Jack Sparrow, is marooned along with his ship in a dry, featureless wasteland. Save for him and his ship providing visual relief to this barren plain, it may as well be night. Arguably, Verbinski is playing with the senses here, notably sight. Yet it is also silent, save for the ship's crew -- clones of himself -- which Jack has apparently sort of conjured up in his mind so as to relieve that silence. So then we have our sense of hearing thus represented, and the entire scene has been introduced with a close-up of a nose, sniffing, leading its attached body to the discovery of a peanut We thus have smell, followed by touch. Likewise, he and his "crew" are depicted as contending for that possibly imaginary peanut, hence taste. Jack then sort of abandons ship for the hardpan desert below, lowering himself on a rope. He discovers what appears a smooth, round river-rock, and the process of identification through the senses begins again. After finally licking it, he throws it away violently, apparently disgusted with its blandness and its apparent failure to give relief (or, perhaps, novelty) to the apparent dryness of his existence, there, "at world's end" . . .

    The latter, "belief" in the sense of some perhaps shared perception or "hope" that the body can -- if it really, really wants to -- overcome certain apparent properties specific to it, Verbinski appears also to be treating. After throwing away the rock, Jack pulls desperately at the rope in some faint hope he can get the ship moving of his own power, only to then collapse onto the ground, apparently in despair. Unbeknownst to Jack, however, his having licked the dry, hard, round rock has sort of "awakened" it. The rock splits open to reveal the body and appendages of a crab, which has been watching him as he futilely (and absurdly) tugged on the rope attached to the ship. Unbeknownst to him, his sort of "communication" of moisture to the crab has apparently triggered a memory of water in the crab, and Jack's desperate tugging on the ship with the rope has apparently further communicated a desire for his ship to be taken there -- to water. The crab then clicks his claws together, awakening thousands upon thousands of what also formerly appeared to be "only" rocks. Jack is then stirred from his despair by the shadow of his ship passing over him prone there on the ground, the ship itself being propelled over the dry ground with the assistance of those thousands upon thousands of emergent rock-crabs . . .

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  10. Apologies for what may have seemed a rather abrupt ending to my response above. I ran afoul of your (or Google's) character limit on replies.

    To conclude:

    >>The importance lies in ‘adaptation’, and by that I mean it both ways – adapt to and adapt it!<<

    Yes, that would seem to have been Jack's problem (a recurring theme throughout all three installments). He seemed not to know what he wanted, thus making it difficult -- if not impossible -- for such 'adaptation' to take place. :)

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  11. Mstaab, pardon the delay and excuse the further delay. I shall respond soon ...

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  12. Mstaab:

    Interesting ideas to which I can add little!

    The body as belief has to exist for it to be interpreted. One may believe in it for itself or for what can become…the becoming need not be overcoming inherent properties but becoming more of itself.

    Your comments about the rock and the use of senses begs the question that even after seeing or not seeing and feeling it, whether in light or darkness, it would depend on where one is , the angle at which the rock is for it to be seen as a rock. It could be some sort of formation.

    Your example from Pirates of the Caribbean is such a sensual as well as perceptive idea. Take the sense of smell – was it the close-up of the nose sniffing that makes you, as the audience, understand it as smell? Or would you ‘see’ it as an act of smelling or understand the implications of the potential of fragrance? Then we have the visual relief in the barren landscape…is the barrenness a relief itself?

    Then you have the crabs that were mistaken for rocks. Does that make rocks non-existent? Will it always be crabs? Is everything that does not move have a life inside of it?

    >>The importance lies in ‘adaptation’, and by that I mean it both ways – adapt to and adapt it!<<

    Yes, that would seem to have been Jack's problem (a recurring theme throughout all three installments). He seemed not to know what he wanted, thus making it difficult -- if not impossible -- for such 'adaptation' to take place. :)


    Indecision is adapting to not doing anything!

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  14. >>Indecision is adapting to not doing anything!<<

    Perhaps, in certain circumstances. However, in that it appears Ms. Suzuki has publicly signaled her intentions, my impression is that she is yet willing to consider methodologies alternative to the one she has proposed.

    By and large, my experience with folks who have well and truly made up their minds is that there is no announcement, no further discussion, no consensus seeking -- they just do it. And, certainly, one can decide (for whatever reason) to "do" no thing and allow such things to follow their natural course . . .

    Thanks, Farzana. :)

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  15. Hi Mark:

    >>Then we have the visual relief in the barren landscape…is the barrenness a relief itself?<<

    …And, of course, if one has seen (heard, smelled, felt, tasted) enough -- repetition, again -- such externalities may acquire a certain superfluosity. In another context we might say that they, having thus served their purpose, become redundant . . .


    Redundancy does not bear repetition, no?

    >>Indecision is adapting to not doing anything!<<

    Perhaps, in certain circumstances. However, in that it appears Ms. Suzuki has publicly signaled her intentions, my impression is that she is yet willing to consider methodologies alternative to the one she has proposed.

    By and large, my experience with folks who have well and truly made up their minds is that there is no announcement, no further discussion, no consensus seeking -- they just do it. And, certainly, one can decide (for whatever reason) to "do" no thing and allow such things to follow their natural course . . .


    Again, I refer to the barren landscape. Suzuki’s intentions are pitched on that. Jack’s water’s edge is a mirage here, possibly. Agreed, people just do with without preamble whatever it is they wish to, but following a natural course is not quite about indecisiveness…indecisiveness is having several courses and not being able to choose, therefore the manouevering towards adapting to that hollow area of nothing…nothing yet :)

    Thanks to you, too. I guess we have covered quite a bit of ground and exhausted poor Ms Suzuki’s little plan!

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