[Jean-Jacques] Rousseau wrote about the difference between speech and writing, and following Plato, he regarded speech as more authentic, present, or real than writing. Writing, in his view, imitated speech but never quite accomplished the interpersonal communication possible with direct speech. Rousseau noticed, however, that he communicated his thoughts more clearly and accurately in writing than in speech: "If I were present" in a conversation, Rousseau wrote, "one would never know what I was worth," since shyness would inhibit his speech (quoted in Derrida 1974:141). It is Derrida who points out the paradox: writing, through a false imitation of speech, is nevertheless truer than speech. Rousseau, Derrida explains, "valorizes and disqualifies writing at the same time" (1974:141). For Rousseau, the relation between writing and speech is much the same as that between masturbation and copulation. Masturbation, like writing, is an imitation motivated by a lack — in this case the lack of a sexual partner. Masturbation is a faint imitation of copulation, but because it represents a "perfect" union between sexual partners, who are in fact one in the same person, masturbation trumps copulation as writing trumps speech.The different topic I was researching came up over in the comments to that "growing brain cells through sex" post. Would masturbation work on the brain cells or was it something about sex with a partner? I realized that my assumption that masturbation wouldn't work resonated with really old notions, like the idea that masturbation could make you insane. Researching that, I easily found the Wikipedia article "History of masturbation," and I was fascinated by the line:
The 18th-century philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau saw masturbation as equal to 'mental rape,' and discussed it in both Émile and Confessions. He argued that it was the corrupting influence of society that led to such unnatural acts as masturbation and that humans living a simple life amidst nature would never do such things.So many strange ideas. So many potential connections. Think about them, write about them, talk about them here in writing. We might grow some brain cells.