On 16 december, 2016 we gave the talk “Tecnonologías masturbatorias. De vibradores y dildos” [Masturbarory Technologies. On Vibrators and Dildos] at the Restaurant-Cultural Center Punto Gozadera, in Mexico City. The event was the result of a series of WhatsApp conversations on the intersections between sexual autoerotization practices and technology. The talk emerged from a diagnostic on the current situation of this subjects inside of academia, particularly the philosophical one, and the need to open up not entirely academic, or improvised and private spaces, but hybrid scenes for discussion.
Our main goal was to enter into a conversation with the participants that allowed us, in a spontaneous and collective manner, and starting from a specialized discourse, as the philosophical is, to deepen the reflection about autoerotic practices assisted by devices. Our aim depended on the ability we had to generate a dialogue among a group of people which prior to the event wasn’t an established debate community, where usually the participants already recognized the others as valid partners.
The project materialized in a critical and exploratory discussion around technological masturbatory practices, around the pleasure that elapses between vibrators and dildos. Our intention was to address this subject starting from the reading and discussion of Paul B. Preciado’s book, The Contra-sexual manifesto. We set out the questions we wanted to debate with the attendants: How is the functioning of masturbation techniques to be understood? What are the discourses and practices bound up with the use of dildos and vibrators? Which are the ones related to penetrative or vibratory practices? Is it possible to separate dildos from their penetrative function? What is a vibratory technology?
We wanted to start a public conversation around mastubatory practices from a theoretical perspective, but we wanted to do this outside the spaces and traditional ways of academia. We ask ourselves for the manner in which technologies of the erotic meet in/with our bodies, for the way in which the pleasure is produced in the intersection of the device and the flesh. The point was to question our desiring machines, to track the technological transformations that alter matter, and desire.
We were also interested in demarcate this activity from more traditional formats, such as presentations, book commentaries, and close readings. We were looking for a critical exercise in which we didn’t take the place of experts. Preciado’s text was useful to act as a base upon which we placed our questions. Nothing more, and nothing less. We wished to encounter other ideas, opinions and critiques on this matters, to challenge our own notions, to learn from other experiences, to hear other voices. Every single participant was invited to take part in the conversation, to contribute to it from their own thoughts and life story. Reading the book was a suggestion, but not mandatory.
Given the subject of the talk, both specialized and (in some contexts) taboo, and the known tendency of the debates that have not been strictly limited beforehand (for example, by the academic context of a conference, or because of a format as keynote presentations, where the hierarchical figure of the expert exists) to derail in heated arguments, disqualifications and radical polarizations, our main challenge was, first, to accomplish a feeling of trust among the participants, enough for them to actually talk, even take the floor. Second, we wanted to channel the conversation build from this interventions, so it wouldn’t deviate from the subject at hand, so that none of the participants would monopolize the microphone, and so the discussion wouldn’t become an exchange of attacks and insults.
We think that we succeed in reaching our goal. Almost all of the participants spoke in at least one occasion, and a few of them did it several times. The conversation passed without unpleasant incidents among the attendants, and there were a number of interesting questions and experiences that came up, that we haven’t foreseen. The public interventions were so enthusiastic that the event actually lasted almost an hour more than originally planned. We counted around 20 participants, which, given the conditions of publicity, nearly non-existent, and our limited experience organizing this kind of events, we thought was very reasonable.
The comments after the talk opened up new tracks of thought. A number of participants expected a more concrete tone, or theme, meanwhile others imagined the discussion will be more specialized and philosophical. This expectations bring us to a series of questions: What happens to discourse in hybrid spaces? How to articulate different kinds of knowledge, when there are not institutional spaces and practices to keep them separated and validated? How are we to talk about our bodies without having to recourse to specific experiences and practices? What kind of knowledge emerges from/within the bodies?