Sunday, February 21, 2010


Randomly came across the "call for papers" notice for this conference via a Twitter link, and decided to quickly whip up a proposal. If they keep to the same setup as last year, it'll be held in San Francisco in October or thereabouts. Of course, I haven't got the budget for a plane ticket and/or hotel stay in SF, so if they pick my paper, I'm gonna have to try and talk them into letting me deliver it via Skype or something (they'll probably dig that, being as how it's a technofetishist gathering anyway - whadda I need to be there in the flesh for, right?).

So here's the first and only draft of what I sent:


Looked at correctly, architecture is innately, irrefutably feminine. Just as when you really think about it, the person who physically surrounds and contains the other person during sexual intercourse is in fact the dominant partner, for all its spires and obelisks architecture is ultimately about men creating hollow spaces into which they can crawl like cowards, returning to the womb rather than facing the terrors of a vast and uncaring, if not predatory, world. But that which provides safety and reassurance can become cancerous – familiarity breeds contempt, and all that.

The modern office building and the rituals of corporate life conducted within it, from the panopticon-like surveillance conducted by bosses who monitor employees’ Internet activity and read their emails to the de-sexualization of interpersonal relationships within the office (hitting on one’s co-workers is seen as “creating a hostile work environment,” thus redefining sexuality as a form of hostility), all build up to create a sort of emasculating energy-field. And the familiarity of returning to the same corner of the same building day after day exacerbates that emasculation. Male resistance to this constant smothering pressure takes many forms – the forwarding of lewd or disturbing video clips to co-workers (I worked with a man who had a library of hundreds of these), flirtation with sexually available officemates or, in extreme cases, viewing of pornography and/or masturbating behind one’s closed office door.

In his book Super-Cannes, J.G. Ballard describes an exclusive, upscale colony where corporate heads live in close proximity to one another. The pressures of their jobs are so extreme, the distortion of innate drives by the demands of business so overwhelming, that a therapist embarks on an experimental program of behavioral readjustment, getting them to release pent-up tensions in orgies of sex and violence. Viewed through a suitably Ballardian psychic filter, it seems obvious that the ultimate manifestation of long-pent-up sexual release in corporate culture is the office-park shooting spree.

The image is deeply familiar to Americans – an unassuming employee is fired and leaves the office, only to return with one or more guns and begin blasting holes in co-workers, literally penetrating them in a manner that mimics/“makes up for” all the more traditional forms of sexual acting-out that have been systematically excised from corporate life. While this has traditionally been the province of male workers, we have recently seen the first female office shooter, showing that this type of behavior has crossed gender lines and truly become a part of Americans’ psychosexual DNA.

I propose a paper in which I will analyze office shooting sprees as a metaphor for too-long-denied sexual impulses, in much the way J.G. Ballard used car accidents as a metaphor in Crash.

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