n Institute of African Studies Research Review - Sexual pleasures and the logic of excess in the era of AIDS

Volume 17, Issue 2
  • ISSN : 0855-4412



This essay is about the relation between the two human phenomena named in its title: sexual pleasures and excess. The context is as indicated: the era of the AIDS pandemic. The tiny word "and" stands for the relation between the two elements involved, and it could be read in two very different ways: as external and accidental or as internal and necessary . If we choose the first alternative, reading sexual pleasures and excess as only accidentally related, we are allowed to imagine sex as fundamentally harmonious and healthy, indeed as a constituent part of a well-balanced life, and by the same token, the logic of excess could be regarded as something we could be drawn into only if we betray the true meaning of sex, perhaps demanding too much of it and letting it be the director of scenes of our lives where it should not be in charge. However, the logic of excess could also be read as something that rightly belong to sex, as something sex could not exist without, at least not for long. In that case, sexual harmony is just a vain idea, perhaps a necessary idea, but still an illusion. <br>Of course, claiming to have a final answer to such a question would be rather preposterous. Yet, I feel that the question has a real importance in the era in which we live, and that debating it could be worthwhile. The context of my inquiry is the era we live in, insofar as it could be called the era of AIDS. But perhaps we could have something to learn from people living in other eras: they could shed light on the way we live-from perspectives we would otherwise not be aware of. <br>Now, the strategy to be adopted in combating an epidemic like AIDS will depend on what is perceived as behavioural patterns facilitating the spread of the disease. And it it is precisely on this level that our perception of the role of excess could be crucial. What I mean to say is this: the strategy to be adopted in order to reduce the spread of a sexually transmitted disease will, to a certain extent, depend on whether or not those who engage in this battle think of sex as something inherently excessive. If you think of excess as something that can be avoided in a pleasurable sexual experience, you will look for other strategies than if you identify sex with some kind of excess. <br>There are so many unanswered questions in relation to AIDS, and the concept of excess does certainly not shed light on all of them. So, I will try to situate this phenomenon on the level where it belongs in this context.

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