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February 1, 1975: Wage-Slavery and Sexual Oppression Printer Friendly Version

Wage-slavery and Sexual Oppression

James Herod
February 1975

  I have been saying for some time now that wage-slavery and sexual oppression are one and the same thing but that I couldn't understand yet quite how. I have now perceived how. It's so obvious once you see it.

  The thing that is evil about wage-slavery is that, by removing power and control (decision-making) from producers, it mutilates human beings and reduces them to half-humans. If enforces a perverse separation in the human faculties by cutting out the function of intelligence and consciousness from the rest of the person. The senses are truncated, split, perverted, mutilated, blocked. What wage-slavery destroys is sensuality. Consciousness and intelligence are an integral and intimate part of sensuality. Touch, smell, sight, hearing, taste, and so forth cannot be separated from consciousness, intelligence, and communication. The senses of the laborer are rendered irrelevant through the loss of control and power to the capitalist. The capitalist decides how the work will be done, what work will be done, and what will happen to the results of the work. The worker becomes merely an extension of the will of the capitalist, that is, an extension of the senses of the capitalist, an extension of his or her perceptions and intelligence. No matter if the worker feels that the work could be done more easily and better by following a different procedure, the capitalist, who is not actually doing the work, decides what procedures will be followed. The essence of wage-slavery is thus the destruction of sensuality. Praxis (goal oriented human labor) is denied the wage-slave (note: the concept of praxis combines both consciousness and the senses, thinking and acting, brain and muscle).

  Sexual oppression is also the destruction of sensuality. Wage-slavery and sexual oppression are thus the same thing exactly. It is a curious thing that sex is never listed as one of the senses. In the standard list of five we have seeing, hearing, feeling, tasting, and smelling. The sex act involves all of these, but especially feeling. Yet, you might argue, it is also a distinct sense in its own right. The sex act is a distinct physiological phenomenon, as Masters and Johnson so clearly established. It involves a host of body changes in both the man and the woman. It is qualitatively different from mere touching. This is especially true of orgasm.

  Even aside from the exclusion of sex, the list of five is grossly inadequate. It ignores consciousness, intelligence, communication, and perception in general (i.e., gestalt perception, meaning, totality). The list is indeed merely another expression of the theory-practice duality. The senses are conceived as something separate from intelligence and decision-making. The senses are seen as practice but not as theory. This merely reflects the capitalist's own view of the worker. The capitalist wants a slave who does what he is told. The slave, he thinks, only needs to feel, touch, see, taste, and smell, and he only needs to do these things to the extent necessary to carry out the instructions of the bosses.

  Thus the senses are perceived mechanically. The slave certainly doesn't need to think, because the capitalist does that (or so the theory goes; actually no work would ever get done if the worker did not apply intelligence to the task). Nor does the worker need to talk to other workers. And workers certainly don't need sex. Sex, as one of the senses, is totally and powerfully excluded from the workplace, far more thoroughly than thinking and talking are. The ban on sex is virtually absolute.

  One cannot help but wonder whether, for modern times at least, the oppression of sexuality has it ultimate origin in this exclusion of sexual activity from the workplace, presumably in order to enhance productivity and increase the profit of the capitalist. The ban on sex at the workplace becomes a powerful tool to perpetuate the ban on public sex in general, in favor of sex behind closed doors. It also strengthens and perpetuates the separation of work and pleasure, and the suppression of sexuality in the culture at large, even during nonwork hours.

  The suppression of sexuality is thus an integral part of the capitalist's attack on sensuality in general. The capitalist must, in order to survive as a capitalist, suppress (1) judgment (thinking and decision-making), (2) talking, and (3) fucking -- the three highest, most elevated expressions of human sensuality, the end products, you might say, of the sensual process, the abstract final results of the myriads of concrete perceptions. The wage-slave cannot be allowed to be a sensuous being.

  If we ever do succeed in being human it will only be by throwing off this slavery and by putting an end to the capitalist's destruction of sensuality.


Notes to continue: (1) Link up the commercialization of sex to this theme. They suppress real sex and then sell it back to you symbolically, and in a plastic package. (2) Spell out further the functions of the suppression of sex for the perpetuation of the capitalist's control over the workplace. (3) Analyze atomization (at work and in sex -- that is, they must separate workers from each other in order to maintain hierarchy, and separated people obviously can't engage in sex. (4) Examine the reasons for suppressing sexuality at large.