The Uses of the Erotic in the Professional Setting

Typically, when we graduate high-school and begin our college career we are faced with a plethora of existential questions.Who am I? What do I want to do with my life? What values are important to me? College is a time of experimentation, where kids become adults and develop political opinions, a professional voice, and express and evaluate their own sexual desires. College is a public space as opposed to a private space, where social taboos are less prevalent, and the student is expected to try new things and pursue what they consider to be their individual passion. So how does this process of self-discovery correlate with our passions and desires? In Audre Lorde’s essay, “Uses of the Erotic: The Erotic as Power”, she makes the claim that through the pursuit of the erotic, we can discover who we are, and what will be fulfilling to us in our professional, social, and individual lives, Which is why, college students should pursue the erotic as a means of happiness as opposed to the suppression of the erotic in exchange for professionality. 

When we think of the erotic in relation to perverse sensual or sexual pleasure such as pornography, however, Lorde defines the erotic as, “a measure between the beginnings of our sense of self and the chaos of our strongest feelings. (Lorde, 94)”This means that the discovery of the erotic is essential in discovering who we are, what we value,  and understanding our emotions. Lorde urges us all to evaluate our emotions as opposed to suppressing them in order to answer the existential question of who am I? the term erotic is derived from the Greek word eros.  Lorde states that the term “eros” is a concept which emerges out of chaos and eventually initiates, “creative power and harmony (Lorde, 96)”. The erotic is interconnected to our sense of intuition.The erotic transcends the physical, sexual boundaries men in power have placed on us and informs us of what stimulates us intellectually and emotionally.It is necessary to understand ourselves intrinsically before we can begin to choose our future pursuits in employment, which is why we should focus on our individual passions as opposed to achieving professionality.  Lorde claims that we should never settle in any aspect of our lives for anything less than extraordinary when she states, “To encourage excellence is to go beyond the encouraged mediocrity of our society, But giving in to the fear of feeling and working to capacity is a luxury only the unintentional can afford, and the unintentional are those who do not wish to guide their own destinies. (Lorde, 94)”

We live in a culture which forces us to choose between an economically fulfilling job and a job which is derived from our individual passions. Yet, is there a way to have both?  Lorde urges college studetns nearing the end of their journey to evaluate ways to achieve both professionality and the fulfillment of the erotic and urges us not to suppress the erotic in exchange for professionality, since it is a vital aspect of ourselves. Professionality and the erotic should  be forces that work together as opposed to the binary oppositionwe commonly see between the two in contemporary society. This is why it is necessary to embrace both professionalism and the erotic as you approach the next steps in the beginning of your career. 

In our society, the erotic and professionality are viewed as oppositional forces. Anyone, particularly black women, who display emotion in a professional setting are perceived as weak and illogical. Yet, Lorde claims, “the erotic offers a well of replenishing and provocative force to the woman who does not fear its revelation, nor succumb to the belief that sensation is enough. (Lorde, 93)” Lorde’s belief is that men in power have distorted the denotation of the erotic in order to have mainstream society believe that it is a source of weakness and delinquency. However, the erotic is useful and necessary in our life and serves to provide power, strength, and passion.

Lorde explores the implications of male privilege on the erotic and urges all of us to dig deeper in deciphering what the purpose of the erotic truly is. The erotic can help us to explore our own passion and career. The pursuit of the erotic can help us to lead aesthetically and morally fulfilling lives. Lorde claims that the emotional and rational aspects of the mind should be used in cooperation, rather than conflict, in order to lead fulfilling and promising lives. Our society sees empowered women as dangerous which results in the encouragement of erotic suppression. Lorde states, “the principal horror of such a system is that it robs our work of its erotic value, its erotic power and life appeal and fulfillment…It is not only next to impossible, it is also profoundly cruel. (Lorde, 95-96)”

In contemporary society, it is becoming increasingly easier to become desensitized to the world around us. Yet, through the pursuit of the erotic, and the fulfillment of professionality,  we will not lose passion nor interest in our careers. Yet, we will strive for change in order to make the world a better and more suitable place for the erotic. Lorde claims that by, “Recognizing the power of the erotic within our lives can give us the energy to pursue genuine change within our world, rather than merely settling for a shift of characters in the same weary drama. (Lorde, 103)”

In her essay, “The Uses of the Erotic: The Erotic as Power”, Lorde urges all of us, men and women, to redefine our denotations and connotations of the erotic. The erotic has been tragically misconstrued due to patriarchal misconceptions towards emotions, passion, and professionality.  The erotic can and must be used as a means towards achieving happiness, as well as,  answering the question of “who am I?”. In choosing a career and making the painstaking decision as to passion or professionality, Lorde urges us to embrace both the erotic and professionality. In doing so, we will achieve power, tranquility, and self-fulfillment.

Work Cited

–   Audre Lorde. “Sister Outsider.” iBooks.

3 Replies to “The Uses of the Erotic in the Professional Setting”

  1. Hey Cody,
    Wow, your blog post really brought back some memories. Definitely a piece that contemplates the rite of passage and transitions! I really liked your opening statement and you did a great job transitioning into Audre Lorde’s work. The opening statement was really captivating and many people could identify with it and answer the beginning questions. You made many great points in your blog post that wrapped everything up incredibly! If I didn’t know anything about Lorde I would have gained a vast amount of knowledge through your insightful blog post.

  2. Hey Cody,
    I adored your topic and how you made your writing feel close to home for the members of a college community. The presentation in your writing leading to your thesis was so relatable, also very personal, so readers get encapsulated in your blog post. Audre Lorde presents the erotic to be vital to human life, being a tool to further build upon our self-discovery. I love how you captured the essence of Lorde’s message on how learning to live life to the fullest through eroticism is an act of rebellion to push back to society. Lorde indicates that in a society of professionalism, eroticism is a term that isn’t acceptable. Lorde pushes back with a perfect quote on the matter of how recognizing the power of the erotic can change the world, and that is a compelling message to be spreading to the youth, and the future people in power. Great job!

  3. Heyyy Cody! Amidst this age of hookup culture, I felt that your blog post was both refreshing and necessary. Examining the “Uses of the Eroitic: The Erotic Power”—one of my favorite essays by Audre Lorde—you were able to uncover the senses that lie at the basis on our sensuality. I especially agreed with your interruption of “the erotic” as a means of self-discovery and an essential component in our evaluation of our emotions. I must admit that when I initially read Lorde’s “Uses of the Erotic: The Erotic Power”, I was reading it from the feminine perspective. So, it was really intriguing to gain a masculine perspective to the understanding of “the erotic”. Your distinction between the erotic and professionality reminded me of the disparity that exists between feminine power and masculie power. While masculine power is viewed as physical qualities and often encompasses what we can see and touch, femine power is viewed as the intangible qualities such as love and intuition. While you did an amazing job expanding upon your thesis throughout your blog post, I want to pose a question to you. Do you believe that it is truly possible for the erotic to exist within the realm of professionality or have the boundaries between work and life become unpermeable in today’s society?

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