What exactly is this 'crack' Celtic people talking about ? In Ireland or Scotland the phrase 'Looking for the Crack' though admittedly slightly old fashioned is still widely used despite, or perhaps because, it is unknown outside those communities.
Indeed male homosexual desire does seem to operate in this utterly fixed mode of monomania,
'looking for the cock' being the sole purpose of all flirtation. Yet masculine heterosexuality seems to have been diverted, diluted, into a wide variety of weird needs, whether intelligent conversation or bondage, and has become almost as complex and sophisticated as female sexuality. "What do men really want?"
If 'the crack' that men are looking for is merely vaginal penetration (a qualified 'merely' of course) then how is it ever going to be sufficient to the burden of obsessive exigency that leads to it, how can any vagina live up to this role as lifelong grail of masculinity? In this sense 'the crack' mimics the term jouissance, which may literally mean 'orgasm' but which not even the greatest orgasm could actually embody, for jouissance is the orgasm beyond orgasm, it is the goal every orgasm strives towards but can never quite achieve.
Surely every man has on occasion wondered at the moment of climax whether that was really it, whether that was the entire goal and purpose of his sexual being, if this relatively brief moment of pleasure is sufficient reward for the longer labors of seduction and courtship? Not having experienced the altogether more diverse and multifold pleasures of female orgasm one would not be in a position to say if that is enough in itself to be enough, but certainly the single stab of pleasure afforded the male in orgasm sometimes seems like a genetically programmed cheat.
To quote Freud, perhaps there is "...something unsatisfiable in the nature of desire itself..." and that unsatisfiable something is the 'crack' or jouissance that one continues looking for although one already knows that it is by its nature impossible to grasp.
But the most common use of the term 'crack' today has nothing to do with the ambiguous Irish term referring instead to the potent street drug 'crack cocaine.'
However, this drug provides an even more direct parallel to the mysteries of jouissance than any Celtic slang. In fact 'crack' cocaine might have been invented by a Lacanian drug dealer to demonstrate the rich stupidities of the human drive.
Exactly like the male orgasm 'crack' is an addictive desire, an uncontrollable compulsion that continually offers less than the 24 hour search for it could ever imply.
Just as it is baffling, and to men themselves, that they could have spent so much time and energy and imagination on the quest for sexual satisfaction, the end result of which is apparently 40 seconds of bliss, likewise the crack addict is constantly thwarted by the experience of the drug itself, which he has just devoted an entire day of hassle and hustle to finally scoring. The genius of crack is that it gives so little back relative to the strength of its addiction and that as soon as you partake of it, the very instant you've finished, then you immediately need it again, an ideal metaphor for all desire. Unlike, say, heroin or marijuana the effects of crack are instantaneous and very brief, the 'high' is massively strong whilst it lasts, but that is usually no more than a couple of minutes and more like thirty seconds, the ultimate male orgasm drug.
Reeling with pleasure the crack user hardly has time to adjust before his entire body and mind is craving for it again, again and again as if satisfaction were constantly just out of reach, as if the constant search secretly constituted the actual desire.
Where is the moment of completion, of satiated need for the crack addict? In the minute of chemical explosion that follows smoking the drug or in the very need itself? To quote Will Self's story The Rock of Crack as big as the Ritz; "The whole hit of rock is to want more rock. The buzz of rock is itself the wanting of more rock...the realization that crack was the desire for crack."
The crack smoker can never achieve jouissance because he has given himself over entirely to the search for something whose nature is to elude completion, the only termination of such a desire being in death, a consummation worthy of Bataille.
Watching crack smokers hanging around all day begging, cajoling, willing to do anything to satisfy their addiction and then seeing them finally score, smoke, and stagger back, it is easy to be frankly baffled by this pattern of grotesque need for minimal attainment, but all we are really witnessing is the ritual of jouissance being played out at its most raw.
Jacqueline Rose's description in her introduction to Feminine Sexuality could be perfectly applicable to crack. "The drive touches on an area of excess, it is 'too much.' Lacan calls this jouissance, literally 'orgasm' but used to refer to something more than pleasure which can easily tip into its opposite."
When you watch someone in the throws of a crack high, like someone at the height of an orgasm, it looks as if they are suffering as much as enjoying themselves, it is hard to tell if they are in pain or ecstasy, lost in that impossible instant of achievement, that instant whose very definition is one cannot live there more than very briefly.
To smoke crack may seem a very odd and pointless thing to do, as purposeless and illogical as any other grand pleasure (equally impossible a task as sexual desire), but in its repetitive, compulsive lack of completion it seems as good a definition as any of jouissance.
Photographs of Gerhard Richter's Osterakte, oil on canvas, 1967
and Source Images from Atlas of Photographs, Collages, and Sketches, Courtesy Luhring Augustine Gallery.
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