Interpenetration of vibrating thresholds
Eroticism, sound and sensorial intimacy
Sound allows for multiple crossings between the sensorial and the sensual. To auscultate (‘to listen attentively’) resonates with the near homophonous osculate (from the Latin osculatus, meaning ‘to kiss’, and osculum, ‘little mouth’). Each ear, a hole surrounded by a textured chalice of skin and cartilage, leading through to a thin, taut and highly sensitive piece of skin – the tympanic membrane. Beyond that, a tunnel, a bony labyrinth leading to a fluid-filled spiral, the cochlea, where vibration becomes neural transmission. Every sound, a thread of Ariadne.
When 19th-century sonic technology focussed upon the ear, the erotic was duly invoked. The stethoscope, the telegraph and the telephone, all manifested different potentialities in engaging with the aural dynamics of eroticism.
In 2018, the siren’s call is an ASMR binaural murmur. Immersive sound meant to be experienced as pleasurable touch, a wave of tingling joy radiating from the scalp, down the neck and into the upper spine, activating the envelope of the skin. Pornography has likewise updated its tools. VR sound has reconfigured the potential of the first-person view subgenre, introducing variations of proximity and acoustic field envelopment in the old orgasmic tropes.
This article aims to explore some of the contemporary erotic uses of mediated sound, not only in terms of their technological genealogy, but trying to sketch a conceptual map in order to investigate their nature and impact on everyday embodied experiences of sonic immersion. It focusses on the kinaesthetic dynamics of sound experienced as tactility and operating radical permeability, penetrating bodies and redefining interpersonal territories.
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